Monday, May 16, 2016

Triticale: A Cross of Wheat and Rye

 Triticale may be a saving crop for mankind facing the consequences of global warming - desertification, more frequent and severe force majeure. It has to prove its tolerance to the effects of acid rain and other forms of pollution. It has yet to break the barrier of human indifference. ~

Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Living with Nature - School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday []

In nature, freaks are not extraordinary.  Take the case of Zebronky, a cross of zebra and donkey); Peapple (pear x apple).  And now, triticale (wheat x rye), scientifically Triticum (genus of wheat) and Secale (genus of rye).

The author inspects a Triticale field  in La Trinidad, Benguet. 1975,  

No, these are not products of genetic engineering as we know today - the tinkering of the genetic properties on the DNA level, meaning splicing genic materials of one species and inserting it into the DNA of another species, irrespective of their places in the "phylogenetic tree", the classification of living things into five kingdoms: plants, animals, fungi, protists, monerans. A product example of this new science of genetic engineering is the controversial BtCorn which carries permanently an implanted bacterium gene (Kingdom Monera) into the corn plant (Kingdom Plantae).

In the case of Triticale, the cross seriously started in the fifties through the conventional method of hybridization but involving two different but related species (both are cereals under Family Poaceae, formerly Graminae), and that their genomes were found to be highly compatible as to allow conventional crossing, wheat as the female and rye as the male (pollen). 

But what's the underlying objective to cross wheat with rye?

The two crops are staple food where they are naturally adapted. With the expansion of population and human settlements, agriculture is not only exploring new crops and improving the performance of old crops, but combining desirable traits by combining genes to form varieties, combining genetic lines to form hybrids, but combining species to form a new species (indicated as cultivar, that is, for agriculture). It is man-assisted speciation - the birth of new species.

Wheat, the third most important cereal in the world after corn and rice, has a narrower adaptability range in the field compared to that of its cousin, the rye. Rye is resistant and can tolerate conditons wheat and other crops cannot. 

A Triticale field in Canada

So, goes the long research to enhance their compatibility, first in Poland where it started, then to Russia and other parts of Europe, then to Canada (University of Manitoba) where vast lands await for its commercial cultivation. 

Here in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to study the new crop as well.  Triticale crop stand (see photo above) in the Cordillera where the sub-climate is semi-temprate, was very promising.  The Bureau of Plant Industry in La Trinidad, Benguet, demonstrated the successful project, although its pilot production outside the experimental field was held back in deference to local wheat production which soon became commercialized as alternative to second rice cropping (palagad, October to January). (Visit in this Blog, Yes, We can Grow Wheat in the Philippines).   

Triticale carries gluten (a complex protein responsible in leavening of bread) but on  a lesser degree, which it inherited from wheat - but this fact remains a concern of people who suffer of gluten intolerance and allergic reaction. Nutritional value however, triticale has slightly higher in protein than that of either wheat or rye.   

Wheat, rye and triticale kernels compared. Triticale is significantly larger than wheat.
How about the physical characteristics of the grain or kernel?  Triticale kernels are bigger (see photo) and this poses a problem in grain milling and other aspects in flour production. One thing triticale brought to forage deficit regions is its important as animal feeds, forage, or feed supplement. 

Bread products from triticale

Rye is known for its high tolerance to drought and other meteorological conditions.  It thrives in poor soil and with less agronomic care. 

But has science and technology succeeded in making triticale a suitable crop that assures farmers of its genetic stability, so that they are not tied up  (like hybrid corn and GMO crops) and not to depend on corporations for their seed requirements, tools and market? Has the grain industry accepted triticale as a bona fide commodity in the world's cereal industry?  

These questions challenge the leaders of the grain industry - locally and globally. Such  challenges are posed as well, against the radical, ecologically destructive approach in crop improvement by genetic engineering. If we can create a crop free from genetic pollution (GMOs pollute natural gene pools), then mankind would have no fear of taking food that leaves doubt and uncertainty that destroy peace of mind. Above all, mankind would free itself from guilt in destroying the balance of the environment.

Triticale has yet to become a saving crop for mankind facing the consequences of global warming  - desertification, more frequent and severe force majeure.  It is yet to prove its tolerance to the effects of acid rain, radiation, and other forms of pollution. 

It has yet to break the barrier of human indifference. ~   

Top Triticale producers 2914:(million metric tons):  Poland 5.2, Germany 3.0, Belgium 2.1, France 2.0, Russia, 0.7, China 0.5, Hungary 0.5, Spain. 0.4. Lithuania 0.4, and Austria 0.3; world total 17.1 million MT

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