15 October 1999

Triticale switch paid off…

TRITICALE proved a useful alternative to mainstream cereals on several farms last season.

Manny Howkins introduced the crop to his 263ha (650 acres) of arable at Mannings Farm, Ravenstone, Bucks, on the advice of Dalgetys Steve Baker. Malting barley yields had been slipping because of increasing Barley Yellow Mosaic Virus in the mainly limestone brash soil, and he finally dropped the crop three years ago after supposedly resistant Gleam succumbed to the disease and failed to make malting.

"You could see the BYMV patches in it," says Mr Howkins. "So we had a change of policy. We tried all wheat and then grew a lot of oilseed rape."

Neither approach proved a good substitute for having barley in the rotation.

Binova triticale was brought in 1998 for some restored land next to a quarry and yielded 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). "It did 0.5t/acre more than the Gleam and we sold it off the combine for £64/t. This years 22 acres have done about the same. We have about 70t in the barn, and I am doubling to 50 acres for next harvest."

Neighbours warnings that the crop would suffer yellow rust and be hard to combine because of long straw and awns proved unfounded, says Mr Howkins. Last years October 14-sown crop had Stomp (pendimethalin) for weed control. "We gave it some Folicur with the chlormequat on Mar 26 and again with the Terpal in April." Nitrogen input was 138kg/ha (110 units/acre) part prilled, part liquid.

Straw from the triticale is good bedding for the farms fattening cattle, he adds. "The other good thing is that the rabbits from the quarry didnt touch it."

Rabbits did attack Edward Walkers first-time buy-back contracted crop of 14.5ha (36 acres) of Binova over-winter. "But it soon grew away in the spring and we have had about 3t/acre." He, too, expects to double his acreage of triticale for the coming season.

Wheat and barley yields from his 132ha (325 acres) of Cotswold brash at Asthall Farm, Burford, Oxon, are not high. "We are surprised to get 3t."

Rabbit grazing has long been a problem in one particular field which lies next to a sand and gravel quarry and has busy roads on two sides making shooting risky. Gassing is expensive and wheat yields have been as low as 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) there, he says.

"Where the rabbits grazed the triticale it delayed harvest a bit, but we still had a very good crop. It seems to have cost a bit less to grow than the wheat because the fungicides seem more active on it so you can reduce rates."

Richard Preece has grown triticale on the lighter soils of his 200ha (494 acres) at Duck End Farm, Maulden, Beds, for 10 years, its drought tolerance being the main attraction. This year he had 56ha (138 acres). Sold at a negotiated £5/t below feed wheat price, he finds it much more reliable than winter barley which has been dropped after yields fell to 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) in dry years.

"I grow triticale through necessity for a particular niche," says Mr Preece. "Dalgety is always pleased to trade it. It yields well on marginal land and it is relatively cheap to grow." This year was the first time he has ever applied a fungicide to the crop, mainly as insurance against yellow rust.

Bad weather prevented him completing sowing until February, when 0.5t of Fidelio joined the main variety Binova. Final overall yield is unknown, but the first crop weighed out at 7t/ha (2.85t/acre), he says. "And the late-drilled was still a good crop. The specific weight wasnt as good, but I am confident of spring drilling if I have to."

Triticale harvesting is no problem for Manny Howkins four-year-old Claas Mega combine. Other growers appreciate the crops resilience against rabbits and drought tolerance.

TRITICALE

&#8226 Reliable on light land.

&#8226 Semi rabbit-proof.

&#8226 Cheap to grow.

&#8226 May be February-sown.

Rabbits from adjoining roadside verges and a quarry encouraged Edward Walker to change from wheat to triticale for the first time last year.

When BYDVbecame a major problem, Manny Howkins found triticale reliable and has proved easy to harvest.

On light sandy soils, where barley struggles to achieve 1t/acre in dry years, triticale reliably yields at least 2.5t/acre for Beds farmer Richard Preece.