Other Spring Grains  09/21/15 4:16:43 PM

Other Spring-Planted Grains

In addition to Oats, Wheat, and Barley, there are several other spring planted annual grains our customers use.

Spring Triticale (Triticale hexaploide)

Triticale (trit-ih-Kay-lee) is a crop species resulting from a plant breeder’s cross between wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale). In our area of the upper Midwest, spring triticale is most often used as a forage for chopping. It is frequently planted in a mixture with field peas and chopped as a high-quality silage that can be followed by a summer annual such as sorghum sudan or millet.

Planted alone, spring triticale should be seeded as early as possible in the spring. Whether planted alone or in a mixture, it should be chopped before it heads out, as the seeds can develop a very sharp awn that reduces feed intake (translation: cows don’t’ like to eat sharp stuff). When chopped at the right time it will usually produce more tonnage of higher quality feed than oats, barley, or wheat.

Spring Triticale can make a good feed grain except that it is especially susceptible to ergot. When planting Spring Triticale for grain, select a low-ergot variety when possible. When the weather conditions lead to the development of ergot, you must test the grain before feeding it in order to avoid animal health problems. Researchers at Iowa State have done some interesting work with Triticale, or just Google “Triticale Iowa State” or “Triticale Lance Gibson”


  • Triticale (pronounced: trit-ah-kay-lee) (Triticale hexaploide Lart.) is a hybrid cereal grain produced when durum wheat is pollinated with rye pollen.
  • Approximately 11,500 to 13,000 seeds per pound
  • No official bushel weight exists for triticale. 52 - 56 pounds per bushel is generally used.
  • Triticale can yield 30 - 80 bushels/acre.

Management considerations:

  • Triticale yield, stress tolerance, and disease resistance (except ergot) are typically greater than wheat.
  • Triticale is generally superior to wheat for pasture, silage, hay, and for grain used for feed.
  • In general, triticale has superior drought resistance compared to barley, wheat, and oats.
  • Triticale may have some allelopathic effect which can inhibit the germination and growth of small seeds but effect is not as high as winter rye.
  • Triticale does not possess the grain traits of wheat so its greatest market potential is as animal feed either forage or grain.
  • Winter triticale is as winter hardy as winter wheat but less than winter rye.
  • When winter triticale is spring-seeded, vernalization will not occur so plants will remain vegetative (will not produce seed) and can be used for grazing.
  • Winter triticale matures about five days later than winter wheat and about two weeks later than fall rye under similar growing conditions.
  • Select fields with good drainage, sandy loam to heavy clay soil textures. Avoid fields that had cereal crops and forage grasses in the previous year to reduce risk of disease.

Optimum Planting Dates:

  • Spring triticale should be planted as early as practical.
  • Winter triticale should be planted in the fall on dates similar to winter wheat but even more care should be taken to leave surface residue to catch snow.
  • Optimum dates for direct seeding winter triticale in Wisconsin:



South of I-90
Between I-90 and I-94
North of I-94

September 20 – October 10
September 10 – September 30
September 1 – September 15


Seeding Recommendations:

  • Prepare the seedbed similarly to that for oats, barley, or wheat.
  • Triticale should be seeded using a standard grain drill about ½ to 1½ inch deep.
  • Plant about 100 – 120 pounds per acre. Use lower rate for grain production and higher rate for forage. Triticale does not tiller as much as wheat.
  • Set grain drill 10 - 20 percent greater than for wheat as the seed is bigger and lighter in weight.


(Please contact your fertilizer professional for your specific needs)

  • Basic agronomic practices are similar for winter wheat, winter triticale and fall rye.
  • Fertilizer applications should be based on soil tests.
  • Ensure adequate levels of phosphate (40 lb/acre) and potash (80 lb/acre) are applied in the fall.
  • Nitrogen should be applied 1/3 fall and 2/3 spring providing a minimum of 100 pounds/acre of actual N for best forage production and highest protein levels.

Weed and Disease Control:

  • Select fields with low weed seed density if possible. Plant early in a well prepared seed bed for rapid germination.
  • Seeding early results in a more competitive stand establishment and provides a jump-start on the weeds.
  • Triticale is slightly more susceptible to ergot than wheat. Use crop rotation and tillage to reduce incidence.
  • Bromoxynil (Buctril) is registered for broadleaf weed control in triticale. No herbicides are registered for grass weed control, so the crop needs to be planted on relatively weed-free fields. Triticale grows slower than wheat in the spring and grassy weeds could be a problem.

Harvest Considerations:

  • Optimum harvest stage for forage is when the plant is at the flag leaf or boot stage before head emergence. Protein content at this stage will vary between 14 – 19%. Generally, forage yields and palatability will be higher than for either wheat or rye.
  • Triticale grain generally matures later than wheat or rye and has a higher protein content which makes it a good home-grown feed option. Attention must be paid to ensure that ergot levels are less than 0.1%. Newer varieties have fewer ergot problems. Combining standing grain rather than swathing first is advisable because triticale is more susceptible to sprouting in the swath than wheat.
  • In high fertility situations, lodging can occur. Under such conditions, plan to harvest early.


Triticale: A viable alternative for Iowa grain producers and livestock feeders?

Planting Date Effects on Winter Triticale Grain and Forage Yield

Alternative Field Crops Manual

Triticale Production Manual – Government of Alberta

Triticale Production and Management - Manitoba

Small Grain Weed Control


Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)

Buckwheat is a summer annual broadleaf. It is often used as a fast-growing green manure plowdown, but can be taken for grain. It is not frost-tolerant, and must be planted after your last frost date. When planted in warm ground it can establish, bloom, and produce seed in 70 – 90 days.

Buckwheat is great at suppressing weeds and attracting beneficial insects. Although it is not drought-tolerant, it thrives in most soils. Its fibrous root system leaves topsoil loose. Very few pests or diseases bother buckwheat but it is sensitive to frost and herbicide residue. As a green manure, it will produce 2-3 tons of dry matter in 6-8 weeks. As a grain crop buckwheat can produce 500-1,500 lbs./acre. It is not always easy to market. The steady demand from Asia (for soba noodles) is usually for specific varieties that are contracted with specialty marketers.


  • Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is a fast-growing, summer annual broadleaf native to northern Asia.
  • Most often grown as a seasonal cover crop, for food, as livestock feed, or as a pollen source for honey bees.
  • About 14,900 seeds per pound
  • There is no official bushel weight but it can vary between 40 to 50 pounds per bushel.
  • Yields range from 500 to 2,000 pounds an acre in Wisconsin.

Management considerations:

  • Buckwheat grows best on well-drained but not droughty soils.
  • It tolerates slightly wet soils
  • Does not require high fertility but will benefit from modest levels of nitrogen.
  • Can be double cropped after an early spring crop such as oats or used as an emergency late-season crop.
  • Provides excellent weed suppression.
  • An excellent green manure plowdown producing a significant amount of organic matter in a short period of time.
  • Improves soil tilth and moisture-holding capacity of the soil.
  • Scavenges phosphorus and converts it to a form that is available to the succeeding crop.
  • Has the potential to become a volunteer weed problem in following crops.
  • Avoid fields where residual broadleaf herbicides have been applied in recent months as it is sensitive to atrazine, trifluralin, and sulfonylurea herbicides.

Optimum Planting Dates:

  • Buckwheat is not frost tolerant so cannot be planted in early spring.
  • For grain it is best planted into warm soil between May 25th and June 15th. The later buckwheat is planted, the faster it will mature.
  • The percentage of flowers that develop into seeds increases if flowering occurs during cooler periods. Night temperatures appear to be more important for yield than day temperatures.
  • As a cover crop, it can be planted after May 25th to about six to eight weeks before the first killing frost.

Seeding Recommendations:

  • Plant 50 to 100 pounds per acre. Use the lower amount for grain production and higher amount for cover crop. Seeding too much increases chances of lodging and reduces seed production.
  • For maximum yields drill in 6 inch rows about 1 inch deep.
  • May be broadcast and covered by lightly dragging the soil. Use higher seeding rates when broadcasting.


(Consider a soil test and contact your fertilizer professional for your specific needs):

  • When double cropping buckwheat after a small grain some supplemental nitrogen fertilizer will probably be needed. About 50 pounds per acre of nitrogen is generally adequate. Higher rates of nitrogen can cause lodging.
  • If the soil is low in phosphorous (P) or potassium (K), a little additional P and/or K should be added.
  • Buckwheat is tolerant of acid soils, down to about 5.5 pH.

Weed and Disease Control:

(This is not intended as a recommendation or endorsement of any specific product but as a list of possible controls. Please contact your chemical professional for your specific needs and always read and follow label directions):

  • Buckwheat’s rapid growth and ability to out-compete weeds generally allow it to be grown for grain without post-emergence herbicides.
  • Wait a couple of weeks after small grain harvest if double cropping; this allows volunteer crop and weeds to emerge so that a burndown herbicide such as glyphosate can be applied.
  • If compaction is a concern or herbicides are being avoided, pre-plant tillage should be used to control early weeds and prepare a relatively fine seedbed.
  • Buckwheat is relatively disease and pest free. Pollinators including honey bees will be present during flowering.
  • Wet conditions can cause seedling or root rot disease on rare occasions.

Harvest Considerations:

  • When used as a cover crop, it should be incorporated or killed soon after flowering begins to avoid volunteer seeding.
  • Because buckwheat seeds mature at different times, it should be swathed when about 75% of seeds are brown and allowed to ripen in the windrow for a few days before combining.
  • Frost can accelerate seed shattering and can make the stalks more prone to lodging.

Buckwheat - A Versatile Short Season Crop

Buckwheat: An Economic Assessment of the Feasibility
of Providing Multiple-Peril Crop Insurance

Alternative Field Crops Manual: Buckwheat

Buckwheat: A Multi-Purpose, Short-Season Alternative


Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Common flax was one of the first crops domesticated by man. Commercial production of flax for fiber has been occurring in the US for over 200 years.  The current renewed interest in flax has been generated by nutritional benefits of the seed. It has a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the oil.  Yellow flax may have a higher fatty acid content than brown flax.  We carry both yellow (golden flax) and common brown flax.

Flax is an annual plant which is planted in spring when the chance of frost has passed. Typical growing cycle involves 45-60 days of vegetative growth followed by 2 weeks of flowering and 30 day maturation process.

There are herbicides for broadleaves in flax.  Organic production must rely on a heavier seeding rate to keep weed pressure down.  Yields of flax can vary from 800 lbs to 3000 lbs.


  • Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is a summer annual broadleaf.
    Most often grown for food, oil production (linseed oil), and fiber to produce linen.
  • Seed flax varieties are short, multiple branched and selected for high seed production. Fiber flax varieties are very tall with few branches and low seed production.
  • Historically, flax has been grown in every state east of the Mississippi. Currently, most production occurs in the upper Midwest and the Prairie Provinces of Canada.

Management considerations:

  • Management practices for oilseed flax are similar to that of spring oats.
  • Adapted to soils that are good for wheat or oats, but is not suited to poorly drained soils.
  • Should be rotated with other crops to reduce disease potential and improve yields.
  • Can be double-cropped with buckwheat if planted and harvested early enough.

Optimum Planting Dates:

  • Flax can be planted in early spring as its seedlings can survive temperatures down to 28°F., and can tolerate the low 20s after they reach the two leaf stage.
  • Sow seed 15–20 days before the last average killing frost of the area, which is the same date as for sowing spring wheat.
    In Wisconsin, flax seed sown in April or early May yields best.

Seeding Recommendations:

  • Flax should be seeded directly into firm, moist soil. A well-prepared, firm seedbed will ensure sowing at the proper depth and will result in more uniform germination and rapid, even emergence.
  • Recommended seeding rate is 50 pounds per acre with a planting depth of 0.75 to 1.5 inches. Planting too lightly can result in excessive weed pressure while planting too heavily reduces branching of the stem leading to lower yields.
  • When grown organically, it is sometimes planted in two directions at 70 pounds per acre to improve weed control.
  • Plant with a standard grain drill in narrow rows (preferably 6 inches or less).
  • Seed treatment with a fungicide is recommended especially for golden varieties.


(Consider a soil test and please contact your fertilizer professional for your specific needs)

  • Flax can be grown under fertility levels similar to small grains.
    Yield increases are possible when nitrogen is applied to flax but excessive nitrogen may reduce yield by stimulating more vegetative growth causing greater susceptibility to disease and lodging.
  • Apply about 50 to 80 lb N/acre. Use the lower rate if following a legume crop.
  • Application rates for phosphorous and potassium should be the same as for oats or wheat.

Weed and Disease Control:

(This is not intended as a recommendation or endorsement of any specific product but as a list of possible controls. Please contact your chemical professional for your specific needs and always read and follow label directions):

  • Flax is less competitive with weeds than small grains and should be grown on relatively weed-free fields.
  • Soil-applied herbicides reduce weed emergence and minimize early weed competition.
  • Post-emergence herbicides applied soon after weed emergence usually give better control and allow more time for flax recovery from possible herbicide injury than they do when applied to larger weeds and flax.
  • Assure II, Targa, Poast, Clethodim and Select Max are all grass-controlling herbicides that are labeled to control grasses in flax.
  • Guard against flax diseases by growing resistant varieties, using seed treatments, planting early, using sound disease-free seed and avoiding planting flax after flax.
  • Insects can be problematic in flax. Grasshoppers are a problem especially near or at harvest. Cutworms are known to cut seedlings at the soil level. Armyworms feed on foliage in midseason.
  • Leafhoppers feed on the plant juices and infect the plant with the aster yellow mycoplasm. Aphids have been observed on flax but most years their numbers are not high enough to cause economic loss.
  • Know the economic threshold levels for the various insects and apply control measures.

Harvest Considerations:

  • Maturity of flax is judged by the color of the bolls (seed capsules) rather than by the color of the straw. Each boll contains 4 to 10 seeds.
  • Flax should be harvested when 90 percent of the bolls turn brown.
  • The stems may remain green at harvest, but flax with green stems is very difficult to cut. Sharp, well-adjusted cutter bars are essential.
    Flax can be straight-combined if maturity is uniform and green weeds are not a problem.
  • If flax is swathed and combined later, leave a tall stubble to aid in pick up.
  • The flax seed coat (especially of yellow-seeded varieties) is easily damaged, so proper combine adjustments are necessary.
  • Flax is more difficult to manage in storage than cereal grains so monitoring is required.
  • Flax can be safely stored at 10 percent moisture short term and at 8 percent long term. Higher moisture levels can result in heating and mold formation.

Old Timers’ Tips for Growing Flax

  1. Plant after oats, before corn (after sod is best).
  2. Roll it after you drill it.
  3. Double drill for weed control or spray (Buctril, Poast).
  4. Fertilize like oats.
  5. Cut it and windrow it.
  6. It can sit in the windrow for 2 weeks. Can be raked.
  7. Set the combine so tight it clicks and then back it off 1/8 turn. Use flax rollers if possible.

Growing Flax: Production tips, economics, and more

Growing Flax


Small Grains
Other Spring Grains
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