A pilot project aimed to help Alberta producers adopt new technology and innovation recently brought ranchers and farmers together with experts and scientists during a tour of east-central Alberta farms. New triticale varieties was one of the topics discussed that day.

“Messages from research trials and extension meetings do not always get interpreted the same way by everyone who hears them,” said Susan Markus, beef research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF).

“Recent extreme weather is cause for concern for both cattle producers and plant breeders. Growing and feeding crops that produce under extreme heat, moisture or under short growing seasons are needed.”

Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye and is more drought tolerant and resistant to many of the diseases and pests that affect wheat and rye.

Mazen Aljarrah, AF plant breeder working at the Lacombe Field Crop Development Centre, has developed Taza spring triticale. It is a popular variety with livestock producers as a forage crop for silage, greenfeed or swath grazing due to its reduced awn.

“Taza is impressive with its volume of forage even under dry conditions,” said Aljarrah. “To get the increased forage yield, plant height was sacrificed. Like most varieties of triticale, the white waxy appearance on the leaves and stems of the Taza plants help to hold in the moisture resulting in reduced losses of water to evaporation. That was critical to production under the drought conditions of 2018.”

Andrea Hansen, livestock extension specialist with AF, works with producers who grow and rejuvenate forages and who look to improve productivity and longevity in their stands. She said that it is important that cattle consume the feed put in front of them, especially as it relates to body condition score over the winter feeding period.

“When palatability is an issue, our concern is cow weight loss during cold temperatures. Newer varieties do not have the same palatability issues, attributed to triticale in the past.”

She added that understanding that excessively mature plants have reduced nutrient and quality aspects was important during the summer of 2018 when producers needed to modify the timing of their harvest.

“Lack of rainfall and excessive heat sped up maturity in most plants while causing other species to go dormant and cease production. Having access to newer varieties that perform well under extreme weather conditions and maintain quality without worrying about whether or not the cows will eat them is one way triticale has changed.”

The group conducting this project included researchers at the Alberta Beef Forage and Grazing Centre (ABFGC) along with specialists at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, members of the Alberta Beef Producers and the Agriculture and Agri Food Canada.

Contact

For more information about this series, contact Susan Markus:

Email: susan.markus@gov.ab.ca