Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
Triticale (Triticale hexaploide or Triticale tetraploide) is a hybrid of durum wheat (Triticum durum) and rye (Secale cereale). The two grains were crossed in an effort to develop a grain with the feeding value of wheat and the drought and disease resistance of rye. There have been natural crosses occurring between wheat and rye for thousands of years, but it wasn't until the 1960s that commercial development of wheat-rye crosses occurred. The initial crosses showed important traits, including vigorous growth, wide adaptability, pest tolerance, and nutritional quality. These first varieties of triticale, however, did not perform well in terms of grain yield and agronomics. Subsequent breeding programs succeeded in developing triticale as an alternative grain for both human use and inclusion in animal feed. Today triticale is grown in areas not suitable for corn or wheat. In Ontario, Canada, triticale is grown as a means of crop rotation and soil conservation.
Triticale has been shown to have more protein, especially lysine, than wheat. There is considerable variation in the protein contents for the different triticale cultivars. As with wheat, triticale contains the antinutritional factor arabinoxylan, and its potential as a feed ingredient is improved by the addition of feed enzymes targeting arabinoxylans.
The feeding value of triticale varies by genotype and growing conditions. This may account for the different results reported in the literature. Broilers fed diets in which triticale makes up 30% or more of the content have poorer performance than broilers fed diets with comparable wheat contents. Supplementation with feed enzymes typically increases the performance of broilers on triticale-based diets. Lower levels of triticale inclusion (15%) were shown to have no effect on broiler performance. Others have reported that up to 75% triticale can be used in poultry diets.
Using triticale as a partial replacement for corn in layer diets has been shown to have no effect on egg production or feed efficiency, but egg weight was increased slightly with increasing levels of triticale.
Some research has shown that feeding low levels of triticale increases microbial diversity in the digestive tract, discouraging Salmonella colonization. Low-level inclusion of triticale in the diet of aged breeder turkey toms has been shown to improve the tenderness of cooked meat.
Approximately 35% of Canadian ethanol production is wheat-based, with the remainder based on corn. Triticale is reported to have equal value to wheat grain for ethanol production. Triticale has less environmental impact than wheat because it has comparatively higher yields with lower crop inputs. The DDGS that are left as a by-product of ethanol production from triticale can constitute up to 10% of a broiler diet with no adverse effect on production.