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Putting triticale to the test

The cereal crop triticale was the focus of a four-day meeting in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora State, Mexico, from 23-26 March. CIMMYT started breeding this wheat-rye hybrid in the 1960s for its durability and strong yield performance in marginal wheat areas. The 7th International Triticale Symposium hosted representatives from over 30 countries, including several from developing countries that had been unable to attend previous triticale symposiums due to lack of funding.

Dr. Perry Gustafson, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) delivered the keynote address, focusing on the history of the crop and giving tribute to the late Bent Skovmand, who was a CIMMYT champion of triticale and helped establish the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. One goal of the conference was to gauge interest and advances in the crop; results will help determine the future of CIMMYT’s triticale program, which is in severe lack of funding. Triticale typically performs as well as or better than wheat and has multiple end uses (food, feed, biofuel), yet it is still largely ignored by the agricultural community.

“One of our strategic mistakes is that we have pushed triticale as human food, and that placed it in a market where it competes at handicap with bread wheat. It does not have the bread-making quality of bread wheat; it does not have the pasta-making quality of durum wheat,” said Karim Ammar (pictured top center), head durum wheat and triticale breeder and executive chair of the organizing committee. “But as feed, it has a competitive advantage, both in terms of cost of production and in terms of quality. This is how I think CIMMYT should promote and encourage people to use triticale.” Ammar added that for developing countries to experience the full benefits of the crop, more emphasis needs to be placed on promotion, technology transfer, and education.