“This is just what I was looking for,” says Al Mahmoud Hasan, a farmer near the town or Rangpur in Bangladesh. “I wanted a crop to fill the fallow gap between the rice crops.”
In Bangladesh rice is king, with farmers often growing two rice crops a year. Now, in a pilot project funded by the Danish development agency, Danida, a new crop is making its debut. The aim of the on-farm trials is to see if triticale can make a difference in the lives of Bangladeshi farm families who keep dairy cattle.
Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye that CIMMYT researchers and partners have improved and promoted over recent decades. It makes good animal fodder because its leaves and stem are high in protein. In Bangladesh triticale was virtually unknown. Cows can eat Napier grass when it is in season but feed mostly on a diet of dry rice straw, a poor quality fodder. CIMMYT researchers realized that even in the intense cropping system in Bangladesh, there might be room for triticale as a high-quality cattle forage, filling a gap in the cropping season and a gap in cattle diets.
During the rainy season virtually every farmer in Bangladesh grows aman or monsoon rice. Then during the dry season they usually grow another rice crop (called boro), wheat, or even tobacco. Triticale can fit that second crop niche. The idea is to plant triticale as early as possible after the rice harvest and then cut it at 30 days and again at 50 days. The green cuttings are used as fodder. When the crop does mature, the grain can be used to feed chickens or ground and combined with wheat flour for Chapatti, the standard flat bread of south Asia.
Rokeya Begum has cash and 20% more milk from triticale-fed cows.
Farmers who grow two full rice crops also have an option with triticale. That is because there is a 60 day fallow period between the two rice crops. It isn’t enough time for triticale to mature and produce grain, but it is long enough to produce good green fodder. That is exactly what Al Mahmoud Hasan is doing. He and his family were among 120 households participating in the trials throughout Bangladesh. He, his wife and his two oldest children received instruction in triticale cultivation as part of a whole family training system organized by CIMMYT and partners.
Participation and training has paid off for other farmers, including Rokeya Begum and her family. She sold her first triticale cut to neighbors and used the money to buy new clothes for an important religious festival. Mrs Begum also says her cows are giving 20% more milk on triticale than they did on a diet of rice straw.
The triticale seed for the trials came from CIMMYT in Mexico. The one-year pilot project is near its end and the data are not yet analyzed but reports from participating farmers are encouraging. Many like Mrs. Begum say their neighbors will buy seed from them for next season so they too can try triticale.