It might be wheat’s poor cousin, but triticale didn’t just hang in there in yield-for-ethanol trials. No, this crop was a real contender. So much so that Brian Beres, agronomist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, has launched a second study as part of the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP) project to further evaluate how triticale responds in low to high diversity crop rotations.
“The first trial was to benchmark triticale’s yield performance versus spring wheat. Today’s focus is for ethanol, but I think there will be equal or greater interest in other biorefining applications in the future,” Beres says.
Triticale excels not only in grain production, but it also produces vast quantities of biomass, a trait that may prove very valuable as energy-from-biomass technologies advance. “Triticale is also a spring or winter crop and could potentially be used as a carbon sequestration tool,” Beres says. He wants to have a complete agronomic package ready for farmers should triticale emerge as a new bio-energy powerhouse.
The question is: How does triticale integrate into existing rotations? To answer that, Beres has set up a six-to nine-year rotation that includes four rotational schemes. The first is a low diversity continuous triticale crop, the second rotates triticale with soft white wheat (low diversity), the third rotates triticale with either canola or peas, and the last is a canola-triticale-pea rotation. Beres has also added a triticale-pea intercrop.
Beres wants to evaluate what differences these rotations might have on yield (both grain and biomass), plant health, soil nutrient content and insect and and microbial diversity.
“Continuous triticale may seem like a strange choice, however, if isolation was preferred so that the risk of ergot was quarantined to one field, it may be an option,” Beres says. “We want to explore the response of triticale to all cropping system scenarios.”