top of page

About Triticale

What is triticale (trit-ah-kay-lee)?


Most grain producers believe triticale is the cereal crop that is grown on acidic soils. It is much more than this. It is a man made cereal that has only been around 30 years and all over the world industries are finding new uses for this versatile crop. Animal industries are starting to realise the benefits Tritical forage and grain.

An example in Australia where the Pork CRC is collaborating with the University of Sydney Triticale Breeding Program to develop triticale varieties.


Triticale is a close relative of both durum wheat and common wheat that results from pollinating durum wheat with rye pollen, then using that cross in a breeding program to produce stable, self-replicating varieties.

Crosses between wheat and rye also occasionally, occur in nature, and in very rare instances create viable plants.

Once bred, triticale will not revert back or “break down” to produce rye or durum wheat plants, just as common wheat will not revert back to its progenitors.


Durum wheat, common wheat, and triticale have four sets of chromosomes in common wheat and triticale both have two additional sets of chromosomes, and as a result are more easily intercrossed than durum and common wheat.


Through forty years of triticale breeding and the intercrossing of triticale and common wheat, modern varieties of triticale have become more similar to common wheat. 

The seed and plants of some modern varieties of triticale can be very difficult to distinguish from those of hard red or soft red wheat. Still, triticale typically is superior to all classes of wheat for pasture, silage, hay, and for grain used for feed and some specialty uses, and inferior to common bread wheat for highly mechanized bread making and to durum wheat for pasta.


Environmental Benefits from Triticale

Created by pollinating wheat with cereal rye, triticale combines the advantages of both crops to produce the world’s most productive cereal grain. In addition to providing substantial benefits as a forage and grain crop, triticale varieties provide important environmental benefits.


  • University research has shown triticale to be a superior “trap crop” for preventing the movement of nitrogen into surface and ground water. The use of triticale as a winter crop for managing both phosphorous and nitrogen from manure and previous crops offers tremendous environmental benefits along with high-quality forage and grain.

  • Studies by the international research organization, CIMMYT, have shown that triticale is significantly more efficient than wheat in using soil nitrogen, allowing a reduction in inputs while still producing high yield.

  • In the humid coastal areas triticale’s disease resistance allows it to be grown without the fungicides commonly applied to wheat in those areas.

  • The vigorous growth of triticale suppresses weeds and reduces the need for herbicides.

  • University research has shown triticale to reduce nematode infestations, increasing yields and reducing the need for nematocides for subsequent crops.

  • Research has shown triticale to have a much more extensive root system than other cereal grains such as barley and rye. The extensive root system of triticale contributes to its drought tolerance and nutrient efficiency, and improves soil structure and productivity.

  • Its tolerance to environmental stress, diseases, and other pests, and its efficient use of nitrogen and other inputs, make triticale an ideal choice for low-input production.

  • At a time when environmental objectives and constraints are becoming increasingly important for agricultural producers, triticale offers an ideal combination of economic performance and environmental benefits.


Triticale Grain for Food Products - Highlights


Triticale is a cereal grain created by pollinating wheat with rye. Wheat-rye hybrids have been studied for over 100 years, leading to the commercialization of triticale in the 1960's. The first varieties of triticale did not live up to their billing as the "miracle grain", but excellent progress had been made over the past thirty years. "Hardiness of Rye - Yield and Quality of Wheat" continues to be the appeal of triticale and the goal of plant breeding.

Currently in the only small quantities of triticale are used in food products, most commonly as part of multi-grain breads and specialty items.

The bread featuring triticale describes triticale's flavor as "rich, distinctive, honey-nut-like". "A distinctive nutty, aromatic and naturally sweet flavour" is the way the flavor of triticale has been described by the Australian author K.V. Cooper in one of her cook books, "particularly attractive to those health-conscious people wishing to reduce their intake of highly processed, sugared and salted foods...a very pleasant way of ensuring adequate fibre in the diet". Cookies, muffins, tortillas, and pancakes are among the products that are particularly good with triticale instead of wheat.

Nutritional quality generally is higher in triticale than wheat produced under the same conditions. 


Triticale for Silage and Hay


Triticale is a highly versatile silage and hay that can meet a wide range of livestock needs. For outstanding quality, the optimum harvest stage is at flag leaf or boot, prior to head emergence. Total digestibility and fiber digestibility are exceptionally high at this stage.

Typical digestibility as measured by 30 hr In Vitro True Digestibility is 83% for superior triticale varieties prior to heading, compared to representative averages of 80% for corn silage, and 78% for Lucerne hay. (Note: ADF, NDF, and estimates of TDN based on them, can be very misleading for cereal forages.) 

Triticale forage can be an excellent source of digestible fiber that is vital for ruminant health and productivity. Protein content at boot stage will vary depending on fertility, moisture, and other growing conditions, but generally will range between 12 and 19%. 

For feeding animals that do not need maximum protein and digestibility, delaying harvest can increase yield significantly. Forage yield at the soft dough stage ofdevelopment can be double the yield at boot stage, but protein can drop below 10%.    

Some grain-rich varieties can provide both high yield and high quality at dough stage.


In university research, the highest yielding forage triticale’s have been shown to produce up to 7 tones of dry matter per ha in boot stage, and 12 tones per ha in soft dough.

Forage yield can differ significantly among varieties and production conditions, but the best varieties of triticale typically yield significantly more than wheat, barley, oats, or rye.


Triticale, Wheat, & other Small Grains for Grazing, Green Chop, Silage, and Hay


Productivity, quality, adaptability, and versatility . . .


 Dairy and beef producers can realize substantial cost savings and higher profits, while meeting environmental objectives, by integrating cereal forages into a comprehensive forage program and properly matching nutritional attributes of various cereal forages to the diverse nutritional needs of their animals.


Features Benefits   

Annual Crop


Quick source of forage


Quick payback on production cost


Flexible in crop rotations


Allows quick response to changing economic and production conditions


Cool Season Crop


Efficient use of soil moisture


Less vulnerable to drought


Double crop with warm-season crops


Complement warm-season crops in terms of workload, production inputs, and feed supply


Reduce soil erosion


Aid management of nitrogen and manure during cool season. Utilize nitrogen and prevent runoff and percolation into ground water


Low Input Requirements


Low input cost and financial risk


Equipment required is modest, and usually already owned for other enterprises


Widely Adapted 


Wide range of varieties allows production under diverse conditions


Competitive with Weeds


Minimize costs, regulatory requirements, and undesirable effects of herbicides


Help control weeds that affect other crops in the Rotation


Help establish new stands of pasture species and enhance declining stands with inter-seeding


Relatively Few Economic Pests


Minimize costs, regulatory requirements, and undesirable effects of pesticides


Low risk of major crop loss to pests if crop variety is chosen prudently


Rotational Benefits


Help control pests that affect other crops in the rotation, reducing production costs and increasing y





High quality forage from vegetative or boot stage harvest


High forage yields, especially from soft dough Harvest


Excellent pasture Grain and straw

Ethanol Production from Triticale Grain


Triticale has proved to be a good feedstock for production of ethanol, and is being


Successfully used for that purpose commercially. In addition to commercial production, researchers in Canada, Germany, and Latvia have published studies documenting the suitability of triticale grain for ethanol production. Researchers at University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Research Council found that fermentation rate and efficiency for triticale was comparable to that of wheat, and that thin stillage and distillers’ grains derived from the two were of comparable nutritive value. Researchers at University of Latvia concluded that triticale and wheat were the most promising feedstocks for ethanol production in that country. Researchers at University of Hohenheim concluded that based on ethanol per hectare of grain production that triticale was superior to wheat and rye.

The plant manager for Pound-maker Agventures ethanol plant in Lanigan, Saskatchewan reports that they use both triticale and wheat in their production, and intermix the two indiscriminately. The varieties of triticale that they use have slightly lower starch content than the wheat varieties, so they pay less for the triticale. The plant manager stated, however, that the plant operators cannot discern a difference between the two.

The use of un-malted triticale in brewing and its effect on worst and beer quality 


The brewing properties and economic relevance of modern triticale were investigated in comparison with those of 100% malt and commonly used brewing adjuncts (brewers' rice, maize grits, or barley). Pilot-scale brews were performed with adjunct ratios of 0, 25, 50, and 70% supplemented with enzymes. Using triticale , starch volatilization properties were slightly superior, and amylolysis was similar to those of traditional adjuncts. Triticale worts displayed soluble nitrogen contents in the same range as those of all-malt worts. Amino acid levels with triticale clearly exceeded those of other adjunct worts. Consequently, fermentation capacity and limit attenuation of fermentable carbohydrates were improved. Regarding the final product, addition of triticale enhanced the foam stability and substantially reduced the amount of polyphenols derived from malt. On the other hand, compared with 100% malt, use of 25% triticale increased the wort viscosity by 10% and decreased the beer filterability by12%. 


Sensory evaluations on a sound statistical basis favored triticale beers

toward other adjunct beers. Accounting for the commercial aspects, use of 

triticale results in significant savings in extract recovery when compared with


Common adjuncts. The data presented in this work strongly indicate that triticale is highly suitable to serve as a brewing adjunct. 



H e l p s   F a r m e r s   D i v e r s i f y

 Triticale, the result of a researcher-made cross between wheat and rye, is not widely sown, or even widely known, though it has been around since the 19th century, and CIMMYT has worked on it for more than 30 years.  Originally promoted as a new grain for human consumption, triticale has made little headway against more established crops. Livestock are happy to change their eating habits, however, and triticale is coming into its own for its adaptability as a feed and forage crop in difficult growing environments.


Is This Unusual Crop Coming into its Own?


Triticale is excellent in baked goods and flat breads, but its present appeal is that it gives farmers numerous options for feeding dairy and beef cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry. Since triticale is tolerant to drought, frost, and problem soils, it can be grown in seasons and places where other crops will not grow so well, sometimes making it the only source of animal feed. In such adverse conditions, triticale yields more biomass (stems and leaves) and also more grain than competing crops.


A good source of protein and energy, triticale is sown on more than 3 million hectares worldwide.  As scientists and farmers discover its versatility, it is gaining ground in several countries, including Mexico, Poland, China, Belarus, Germany, and Australia. Despite these advances, the crop could be better known in other countries where farmers would benefit greatly from it.


Diversifying the Menu and the Farming System


CIMMYT (International Maize & Wheat Imporovement Center) has developed different types of triticale for different uses.  Grazing varieties produce a lot of biomass and can sprout several times after being grazed by livestock. Other varieties can be cut for forage, left to grow again, and go on to produce grain. Still others produce highly nutritious grain for animal feed. Dual-purpose triticales can be grazed and/or grown for feed and forage, particularly in environments with relatively long periods during which few other sources of animal feed are available.


These special-purpose varieties are gaining acceptance. For example, a group of farmers in Mexico’s Yaqui Valley is enthusiastic about growing triticale instead of durum wheat for feeding pigs. They will sow more land to triticale next season. This strategy will also diversify their farming system, which is 80% wheat. This preponderance of wheat places the wheat crop at high risk for diseases such as the rusts. More rust resistant than wheat, triticale also competes better with weeds.  Farmers do not have to spend money controlling weeds and rust.


Dairy farmers in Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, Mexico, have implemented a novel system for grazing young milk cows. In a large, round triticale field, a structure is set up that divides the field into segments like a pie and keeps the cows grazing in one section at a time. The structure is advanced as the crop is grazed.  The system relies on a triticale variety bred especially for grazing.  The cows graze the entire field, section by section, four or five times over a six-month period, and the crop persistently comes back up after being grazed.


In the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, farmers grow oats for winter forage, but the crop is sometimes damaged by frost. In view of its cold tolerance, triticale is being tested as an alternative to oats by the CIRENA research group (a training, research, and extension organization of Mexico’s Ministry of Education), with CIMMYT’s help. CIRENA is also active in another part of the state, where Mennonite farmers grow oats for forage in the summer.  


Researchers are trying triticale to see how it fares in such droughty conditions. Results so far have been excellent: triticale produces 100% more biomass than oats and—an unexpected advantage—on less water.  Farmers can feed their livestock and cope with the dwindling water supply.


Meeting Local Needs

CIMMYT has bred triticales useful to national research programs in low-income countries seeking to adapt triticale to local conditions. In Bangladesh, for example, dairy farmers sow triticale for grain to feed their milk cows: it produces more grain than wheat in places where water is scarce. In the Ecuadorian highlands, where the climate is particularly harsh and barley is the leading food cereal, triticale is sown mostly by small-scale farmers looking to broaden the options for feeding their families.The CIMMYT triticale improvement program wanted to improve food production and nutrition in developing countries. Triticale has potential in the production of bread and other food products, such as cookiespasta, pizza dough and breakfast cereals. The protein content is higher than that of wheat, although the gluten in fraction is less. The grain has also been stated to have higher levels of lysine than wheat. Assuming increased acceptance, the milling industry will have to adapt to triticale, as the milling techniques employed for wheat are unsuited to triticale. It was found triticale could be used as a feed grain, and later research found its starch was particularly readily digested. As a feed grain, triticale is already well established and of high economic importance. It has received attention as a potential energy crop, and research is currently being conducted on the use of the crop's biomass in bioethanolproduction.


Triticale: A World Bank, Reappraisal.



The transformation of triticale from a scientific curiosity to a viable crop in the course of a few decades has been a remarkable achievement in plant breeding. However, several grain and non grain factors have caused triticale to fail as a commercial food grain. Overenthusiastic promotion of triticale as a "great nutritious new grain" in the early 1970s disappointed those who attempted to exploit it commercially, greatly damaging the "image" of a cereal that was still far from having more stable and acceptable attributes. Global wheat surpluses, lack of year to year consistency in the composition of triticale grain, absence of official triticale grading systems, and lack of proper promotion are additional factors that have not permitted the formation of the farmer industry-consumer chain necessary for triticale to become established as a commercial food grain. This resulted in disappointment for both farmers and researchers in developed and developing countries. 


Despite this, efforts to resolve the basic problems of triticale continued. As a consequence, the areas under triticale production worldwide during the 1986-1992 period increased from 1 million to nearly 2.5 million hectares. At present, most triticale cultivation is in Europe (78%), followed by North America (7%), Africa (6%), Latin America (5%), and Australia and New Zealand (4%). Except for a few planted areas in China, the crop is not commercially grown in Asia. Active research in enhancing the productivity and end product quality and promotion of triticale is underway in more than thirty countries. 


Farmers in every part of the world have adopted new techniques and accepted new crops that are considered profitable and consistent with their circumstances. The first factors, which favored farmers' adoption of triticale, were its superior performance under unfavorable production conditions including acidic soils, severe disease or insect pressures, or drought. Second, it had the ability to produce higher biomass and high regrowth capacity after grazing and ability to grow better under relatively cool temperatures, making it an excellent forage crop. Third, and equally important, was the usefulness of triticale as a feed grain mainly for mono gastric animals. 


Considerable effort is underway to improve the milling and baking qualities of triticale. Millers and markets find it difficult to accept a new crop because of the additional investments involved in modifying the milling procedure or adding new holding facilities. However, when the world is faced with the problem of slowing productivity of established crops like wheat, maize, and rice and the population keeps growing at its high rate, options like triticale to enhance sustainable production will continue to be important in feeding the world population.

bottom of page