Read Sue Roesler’s original article on ThePrairieStar.com.

It used to be “hay was hay.”

No longer.

Forage is the foundation of most livestock diets, and breeders are focusing on developing high-quality, high-yielding forages, such as triticale, with good disease packages. Triticale is one of those annual forages that have been grown all over the country for use in haying, grazing and in silage.

Ron Ueland, co-owner of Northern Seed LLC, based in Bozeman, Mont., said Northern recently purchased Syngenta’s triticale portfolio, its biggest deal to date.

The purchase includes all of Syngenta’s triticale assets, including its Vernon, Texas research facility, germplasm, triticale-related intellectual property and other assets, Ueland said.

“We had had great opportunities offered to us, and one of those opportunities is Syngenta’s triticale forage program,” he said.

Northern is looking forward to expanding its forage program as livestock producers search for better and higher-quality forages.

“We’re excited to expand upon Syngenta’s triticale varietal development program,” Ueland said. “Small grains are an underdeveloped crop segment and we are strongly focusing on small grains.”

Northern Seed has already become well known for its high-quality spring and winter wheat production, as well as for its malt barley, peas, lentils, and forage seed.

Ueland led WestBred, LLC., a national research and development firm specializing in small grains, in the 2000s, before starting Northern Seed in 2007.

Triticale research trials will now focus on increasing the nutrition and yields of forages from New York through California, and Dr. David Worrall, based in Vernon, Texas, will lead the nationwide triticale research program.

Triticale is a small grain, a cross between wheat and rye, but it is unique in that it does not volunteer like rye and it produces higher quantities of nutritious forage/silage than either rye or wheat, according to Worrall.

“Triticale is an important forage because of its versatility,” he said. “It is highly desirable for dairy cows as well as beef cows.”

There are several studies that have found triticale silage to have higher nutritional value relative to alfalfa silage, he noted.

“In manure management in dairies, triticale gives producers broader options to manage phosphorus and other nutrients,” Worrall said, adding that it is important to use the right triticale product for the right animal in the right region.

“Triticale is also great for dryland and irrigated producers because of its high tonnage per acre.”

There are both winter and spring triticale varieties.

While silage yields vary greatly depending on cultural practices and environment, research data demonstrates that triticale silage yields on irrigation of 20 tons per acre, and dryland yields of 8-12 tons per acre, are common.

In addition, triticale is good forage in times of less water.

Scientists are predicting a strong El Nino for the country, which in the case of the Northern Plains, could indicate less precipitation in the growing season.

“In limited water, triticale is a great forage to grow, a good tool in years of less rain,” Worrall said.

Triticale is also a quick-starting crop and works well in rotation with corn.

The newer varieties that Northern Seed is acquiring have better disease packages as well, he added.

The newest Northern Seed triticale varieties have resistance to rusts, as well as wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV).

In addition, Northern’s new triticale varieties are resistant to all class of aphids, which occur in high frequency in the Midwest.

Many cattle producers like to grow triticale with other crops as part of the cover crop mix, great for grazing and haying, along with its soil health benefits, Worrall said.

“Triticale has good crop growth all winter long, depending on location,” he said. For instance, in the central and southern Great Plains, cattle graze on triticale all winter long. “What is great about triticale is it can be grown in all areas of the country, including Canada.”

In fact, with its entrance into triticale, Northern Seed will now be able to have a presence in Canada, Ueland said.

“We will be able to sell our triticale varieties into Canada, so we are expanding internationally as well as domestically,” Ueland said.

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