Northern Seed buys Syngenta's triticale program, seeks to develop forage plant

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Poaceae Cereal Crops

Northern Seed is seeking to further develop the feed crop triticale for stress tolerance and quality after buying Syngenta’s research program. 

The intention behind purchasing the plant program and an associated research facility in Vernon, Texas is to develop new strains of the plant and widen its market, said Ted Rogers, vice president of sales with Northern Seed. The sale price is not being released.

“Our intention is to build upon the program that Syngenta had and to accelerate the research and development investment,” ​he told FeedNavigator. “They did some great things with it and for a medium-sized, small company it’s a good fit. It’s a niche market.”

‘Dream crop’

The current work with the plant seeks to develop new strains of both winter and spring varieties of triticale, said David Worrall, senior breeder for Northern Seed. “For a plant breeder focused on serving farmers, stockmen and processors this is a dream crop,” ​he added.

“We are breeding new varieties of triticale to be more tolerant of endemic diseases, more tolerant of environmental stresses, higher quality and more productive,”​ he told us. “Our research program encompasses all of North America and includes triticale with intended end uses of grazed forage, silage, green chop, cover crop and grain. The extensive testing program we utilize also is intended to identify new varieties that best fit the many cultural practices used by producers.” 

Some of the varieties in development are being designed to work with lagoon water and nutrient migration, he said. Others are being breed to offer large root systems for areas where the soil has been disrupted or to fit into organic production systems.

It produces copious quantities of high quality grazed forage and large quantities of high quality silage,” ​he said. “In the proper environment, its grain is excellent for both feed and food. The only thing triticale has lacked is adequate research.” 

Along with the winter triticale breeding center in Texas, the company has a second research facility in Woodland, California to study spring triticale, said Worrall.

Market development

The Montana-based company is developing the crop for use in areas including Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and areas where wheat is raised, said Rogers. It also can be used in areas of the upper Midwest.

“It’s superior to wheat,” ​he said. “It’s got a good fit and there are a lot of acres in the US that can be double cropped with winter triticale or green chop it and plant corn behind it. It’s a way of increasing their overall production per acre.”

It also can be used to replace a more water-intensive feed crop like corn, he said. “There are a lot of people who are using winter triticale and following up with sorghum and harvesting it for silage.”

The US is one of the few places where the crop is raised for forage and silage use, he said. In other countries it is developed as a grain.

Nutritional details

The plant is a small grain that can be used in place of something like barley or oats, said Lisa Surber, ruminant nutritionist. It can be used in several ways including for grazing, forage, grain, hay or silage.

The plant offers nutrition levels suitable for either morganatic animals or ruminants, she said. Research done with the plant has shown that it can substitute for other grains without hindering feed intake, digestibility or feedlot performance.     

“Chemical composition of triticale grain is very similar to wheat making it a useful source of energy for ruminants,” ​she said. “It contains high energy levels needed for feedlot gains and it contains starch that is readily digested in the small intestine.”

Although, she said, it does have a lower energy value than corn and sorghum silage. “Triticale silage may fit very well into heifer development rations or rations for cows in the dry period,” ​she added.

“As a forage, triticale will retain feed value and palatability better at later stages of maturity,” ​Surber said. “It is a very desirable grazing crop for beef cattle as it can provide farmers with a valuable alternative to perennial forages and can be used to extend the traditional grazing season into the early spring and late fall. It is a high quality grazing forage, again, very comparable to wheat pasture.”

It also can be used to replace wheat in a dairy ration as it may offer better yield and digestibility, she said. Protein components are determined by when the plant is harvested and how it was fertilized.

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