GROWERS DEMANDED it, the National Triticale Improvement Program delivered it, and now Treat is gaining acceptance as a new variety for Australia's growing triticale industry.
Like everything to do with triticale, it is an interesting story - growers in WA's Albany region, disappointed with low test weight and high screenings in varieties like Muir, Tahara and Abacus, encouraged the release of a breeder's line with consistently high test weight. Responding to the growers' interest, Kath Cooper, head of the National Triticale Improvement Program, released the line as Treat - a mid-maturity, strong straw, high test weight variety. Initially for production in WA, Treat is now also being grown in other states.
Treat is an example of the 'new breed' of triticale varieties produced by the National Triticale Improvement Program which far surpass the original varieties introduced into Australia in the 1970s. Treat has good early vigour, strong straw and matures a few days earlier than Tahara. Treat is widely adapted, being suitable for alkaline through to acid pH soils and low to high-rainfall regions.
The grain is on average 6 kg/l 00 L heavier than that of Tahara and generally gives a lower proportion of screenings. Treat is resistant to stem, leaf and stripe rusts, mildew and scald, and is a poor host for rootlesion (Pratylenchus) nematodes. Treat is not recommended as a cleaning crop for take-all or cereal cyst nematode.
Growers report this variety 'a treat to grow'. Jeff Klitscher and son Mark Klitscher of Coonalpyn, SA, grew Treat for the first time in 200 I on their second block 'Gotarooortwo' in the field district between Coonalpyn and Meningie.
Cleared in the early 1950s and used for rough grazing for nearly half a century, the sand-aver-clay soils of the area are acidic (pH 6-6.2) and low in fertility - triticale being one of the few crops that can cope with these conditions.
"We are nearly all cropping and triticale fits our rotation because we have found it reduces the incidence of take-all, nematodes (Pratylenchus neglectus) and Rhizoctonia," Mr Klitscher said. "We want to get lupins and canol a into the rotation and we will use triticale to help manage the diseases.
"Our first year of Treat yielded 3.2 t/ha, well in front of Tahara," he said. The Klitschers also appreciated the good standing ability of Treat, but had a word of caution for new growers. "Our Treat was harder to thrash than Tahara, so you might need to wait for a warm day, and the toughness and volume of straw may surprise," Mr Klitscher said.
Local dairy farmers buy the Klitschers ' triticale grain and, although test weight (min 65 kg/l 00 L) has never been a problem, the plump, well-filled grain and high test weight of Treat have been noticed. "Some people think we are selling them wheat," Mr Klitscher said.
According to Henry Angas, farming 10 km east of Meningie in SA's lower southeast: "Growing triticale was the best decision I ever made". Mr Angas calls his 2,500 ha of low fertility, low water-holding capacity sandy soils "almost the poorest country imaginable".
"Our operation is based on cattle and sheep grazing lucerne/veldt grass pastures. We had the devil's job establishing lucerne until we started using triticale," he said.
The Angas' system for renovating rundown lucerne pastures is to sow triticale the year prior to re-establishing lucerne. The bulk of triticale straw and its toughness are the keys to the system. "We can graze cattle on the stubbles over summer, clean up with sheep and still have plenty of stubble on the ground in July when we direct-drill our lucerne," Mr Angas said. "With wheat or barley there just wouldn't be the straw left to protect the soil surface and lucerne seedlings."
Treat has replaced Tahara because of its yield, but also its even tougher straw! "Tough straw may not be every graingrower's ideal, but Treat suits us down to the ground," Mr Angas said.
At Woogenellup, 40 km north of Albany, WA, Ed Rogister, wife Lee and son John also like the all-round value of triticale on their 2,000 ha of fertile gravelly soils. "Last year we took 120 tonnes of grain off 90 acres (37 hal , baled 324 big straw rolls from behind the header and still had enough stubble for the sheep. You find a barley crop that will match that!" he said.
According to Mr Rogister, the only downside to growing triticale is the hard thrashing needed to get the grain out of the head and the toughness of the straw - especially of Treat. But even these properties are turned to advantage as the highly nutritious baled straw is fed to Mrs Rogister's 500 Angora goats run on the property and the tough, standing Treat stubbles are in regular use for lambing each year.
Mr Rogister is a long-time triticale grower. Beginning with Muir he has grown Abacus, Tahara and Credit, but his favourite is Treat. 'Triticale is a 'forgiving' crop and Treat even more so. The seed size and vigour of Treat are exceptional. We use a knock-down spray and then sow with a cultitrash. I always use lots of potash, and after that weeds and disease hardly touch the crop," Mr Rogister said.
"As a variety it has a lot going for it and should be trialed by every triticale grower in WA."
So how about giving yourself a treat?
Treat is registered for Plant Breeder's Rights and seed is available from PlantTech Pty Ltd (previously known as SGB Australia). PlantTech's Manager in Perth, Hamish Mines, confirmed that arrangements limiting the distribution of seed in WA had expired and that seed could be obtained through rural merchandising outlets.
Contact: Dr Kath Cooper 08 8303 6563
Mr Jeff Klitscher 08 8571 1063
Mr Henry Angus 08 8575 1263
Mr Ed Rogister 089842 1565
A GRDC publication Triticale- A Guide to the Use of Triticale in Livestock Feeds will be available shortly from the GRDC.