Try Triticale – an Ag Pollution Fighter

Fall planting season is closing for this phosphorus-eating cereal forage crop.

Triticale, a wheat and rye cross, is on the grazing plate of a growing number of dairies. But it's also a double-crop option of removing potentially water-polluting phosphorus from the soil.

University of Idaho research suggests that fall-planted triticale after silage corn can take out more than half-again as much phosphorus as silage corn alone. Triticale withdrew an average 19 pounds of phosphorus per acre, compared with 37 pounds for silage corn, says Extension Agronomist Brad Brown. He also learned that increasing triticale seeding rates by 50% maximizes forage yield and phosphorus removal.

"Double-cropping triticale and corn is a good practice for those with manure to dispose of," he adds. "The more phosphorus you remove, the more manure you can apply and the less manure you have to find somebody else to take."

Northeast constraints

Penn State research suggests that the fall planting season for triticale is nearing a close, according to Marvin Hall, Extension forage agronomist. "October 18 is probably the last optimum planting date for central Pennsylvania latitudes," he says. "October 25 may be the last optimum date for Southeast Pennsylvania.

"After that, the later you plant triticale, the later it matures in the spring. And one key benefit is that it can often be harvested before first cutting alfalfa and before corn planting gets seriously under way," he adds.

Triticale has one other drawback, notes Hall. "It matures very quickly. Once it heads out, it rapidly losses ruminant nutritional value. It has to be timely harvested."

Substantial varietal differences

Brown and others have found that triticale's P-removal concentration can differ threefold from one field to the next. That's why he strongly advises getting the forage content analyzed.

Triticale can be a good feed. It's high digestibility and desirable calcium-to-phosphorus ratio make it a good ration component, he adds. Harvested in late April or May, it also "comes on early, sometimes even before alfalfa hay, and at a time when it's nice to have green feed."

Triticale's production costs are minimal: just seed, drilling, harvesting and possibly a hit of nitrogen. "Triticale doesn't use much water when it's harvested at 'boot' stage, prior to heading," Brown says. Learn more about his research at www.ag.uidaho.edu/swidaho.

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