• Joel Bagg

XTR Brand Winter Triticale Forage

Winter triticale and fall rye can provide great opportunities for “double crop” forage options when seeded after late-summer or early-fall harvested crops. They can help fill in the gap in years when forage supplies are short, as well as provide a living cover crop and weed suppression. They are ideally seeded early at optimal seeding dates in September, and are ready for harvest in southern Ontario for high quality forage at the flag-leaf stage in mid-May.

After harvest they can be followed by planting sorghum-sudan, sudangrass, corn silage, or soybeans. Winter triticale or fall rye provides a good opportunity to double crop forage by planting SS2 BMR sudangrass in early June. Good success has been experienced when underseeding alfalfa-grass with a sudangrass nurse crop. Quality Seeds XTR Brand winter triticale provides the best opportunity for high yields combined with high forage quality.

Forage, Rotation & Cover Crop Benefits

Winter cereals are often planted in September or early-October after corn silage, or after early soybeans are harvested. Winter triticale and fall rye grown for haylage can provide significant volumes of feed. The harvest window for the correct stage of maturity for high forage quality (flag-leaf) is narrow, particularly fall rye. Fall rye harvest will typically occur in mid-May. Triticale maturity is about a week later, so it is more forgiving if wet weather delays harvest.

In addition to providing double crop options, winter triticale and fall rye provide many cover crop benefits with a living crop through the winter. These include erosion control, weed suppression, as well as nutrient savaging and retention. These winter crops utilize early spring moisture for rapid growth when other crops are not growing. A well tillered crop results in a thicker stand that can help smother winter annual and biennial weeds. They respond well to manure and provide application windows before planting and after harvest when soil conditions are usually good.

Winter Triticale Or Fall Rye?

Winter cereals include fall rye, winter triticale and winter wheat. Triticale is a hybrid cross between rye and wheat, and is intermediate in characteristics. Do not confuse fall rye (a cereal) with ryegrass (annual, Italian, perennial), as they are totally different grass species with quite different characteristics.

Fall rye is the earliest in maturity of the winter cereals, followed by triticale and then wheat. Winter wheat has the lowest yield potential for forage, and is generally not used. Winter wheat also heads two weeks later than fall rye making forage wheat harvest too late to be followed by corn or soybeans. Fall rye typically reaches the flag-leaf stage about a week earlier than triticale. Fall rye matures the most rapidly at the flag-leaf, boot and early-heading stages, with very fast growth with significant reductions in forage quality. This can create the challenge of a very narrow harvest window, particularly if there are rain delays. Because of its later and slower rate of maturity, triticale provides a wider harvest window for quality forage. On the down side, the delayed harvest of triticale also means planting the following corn silage or soybean crop is also delayed, but this is less of an issue with sorghums and sudangrass where there is no yield loss from late-May planting. Fall rye may sometimes be more winterhardy where management is less than ideal, but can also have an increased risk of lodging over winter triticale.

Fall rye is sometimes noted for having an “alleopathic effect” that suppresses the germination and growth of weeds and other crops. With most of the rye plant removed, alleopathy is a low risk in forage situations. The possible exception is with no-till corn on heavier soil types. In dry years, decreased moisture in the soil profile following forage rye and triticale can have a negative effect on the yield of the following crop. It is essential to completely kill the rye or triticale with glyphosate or tillage to minimize shading and competition for moisture.

Quality Seeds “XTR Brand Winter Triticale”

Quality Seeds offers XTR Brand Winter Triticale as our best recommended winter forage option. It is a blend of two improved triticale varieties that provides a combination of high forage yield and forage quality. Disease resistance and winter survival are excellent. In trial plots, they have yielded significantly more than certified western Canada varieties.

Seeding Dates

Winter triticale and fall rye are easy to establish and can be seeded from late-summer to late-fall. However, research by Tom Kilcer in New York suggests the optimum time for high forage yields of triticale is 10 – 14 days earlier than the optimum planting dates for wheat-for-grain in a specific area. (Refer to Figure 1 - Wheat-For-Grain Optimum Planting Dates, OMAFRA) This ranges from about the first week of September in the lower CHU areas of southern Ontario, and the first of October in Kent-Essex in the south-west.

An early planting date allows more time for plant tillering, which increases the spring forage yield potential, as well as enabling slightly earlier forage harvest dates. Later plantings with less root growth are also more susceptible to spring heaving and injury. Later plantings can still work, but with reduced yield potential and increased risk of winter injury.

Figure 1 – Wheat-For-Grain Optimum Planting Dates (OMAFRA). Optimum planting dates for triticale and rye are 10 – 14 days earlier.

Seeding Rates & Seeding Depth

Under good conditions, winter triticale and fall rye should be seeded at 100 – 125 lbs/ac. It is recommended to drill seed at a depth of 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inch deep. A firm, well- prepared seedbed is important for an optimal, uniform stand. Shallow plantings have a less developed root system that is more prone to early spring heaving, injury or winterkill. This is especially the case with later plantings. Broadcast seeding will result in significantly reduced yields.

Fertility

Some fall applied N increases tillering that increases spring yield. A fall N rate of 40 – 50 lbs/acre is suggested for early planted crops. Pre-plant, incorporated manure can provide this fall N. Late planted crops have limited ability to use any N and it is not likely economical.

An additional 100 lbs of N should be applied at early green-up in the spring for increased yield and significantly higher crude protein (CP). A rule of thumb is that grasses require 45 lbs N per tonne of expected dry matter yield.

Consider sulphur (S) requirements by including a spring ammonium-sulphate application to improve yields and % CP, where manure was not applied in the fall. A suggested amount is 1 lb of S for every 10 lbs of N.

Removal rates of P and K are about 15 lbs of P2O5 and 75 lbs of K2O per tonne of dry matter.

Yield & Quality Expectations

Winter triticale and fall rye can be made into good stored feed as either silage or baleage. With good management, these crops can produce 1.75 - 2.5 tons or more of dry matter per acre when harvested at the flag-leaf stage (Zadock Scale 39).

The timing of cutting is critical to forage quality. Digestibility, crude protein, palatability, and intake drop very quickly at the heading stage, particularly with fall rye, so the optimum harvest window is very narrow. It is recommended to target harvesting at the flag-leaf stage for high feed quality. There can be a very large range in forage quality with only a few days difference in harvest.

At the flag-leaf stage CP levels of 16% are common, but with proper fertility management (N and S), they can exceed 18%. At this stage, NDF levels can be under 50%, while sugar levels, fibre digestibility, and rates of digestion are high.

At the head-emerged stage (Zadok Stage 55), CP drops to the 13 - 14% range, while NDF increases to over 60%. This will likely be adequate for beef cows, heifers, and dry cows, but will not be high producing dairy cow or sheep quality.

When cut at the early-dough stage, the yield may approach 3 tonnes per acre, but the quality, palatability and intake will be much lower. Delaying harvest past the boot stage because of bad weather or competing field crop activities is not very forgiving.

Summary

Seeding winter cereal for forage can be an excellent, economical source of additional feed. For high yields and forage quality it should be well managed by:

  • seeding XTR Brand winter triticale,

  • seeding with a drill 1-1/4 inch deep into a well prepared seedbed at early optimal dates for your area

  • meeting fertility requirements, including nitrogen and sulphur, as well as P and K by utilizing commercial fertilizer or a combination with manure, and

  • timing harvest for high nutrient quality needs by targeting the flag-leaf stage.

By double cropping, these crops can fill the gap on years with short forage supplies, or be a regular part of a profitable rotation.

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