Genotypic and phenotypic diversity within triticale in relation to cell wall digestibility

Project Details


Main research question/goal

Can the crop triticale - a cross between wheat and rye - become a valid forage crop for dairy cattle when ensiled as an entire plant? That is the central question of this PhD project MELKGPS. In Northwest Europe, many dairy farms grow maize in monoculture. The idea of whole plant silage triticale (WP triticale for short), if a viable alternative to maize silage, could increase crop rotation on dairy farms. The specific challenge this project addresses is about cell wall digestibility. For WP triticale, digestibility is currently not as good as that of maize or young grass silage. Two ILVO research groups (Plant Sciences and Animal Sciences) and UGent (Fac. Bio-ir/Department Plant & Crop) are partners in MelkGPS. 

Research approach

We are conducting an extensive screening of triticale genotypes to detect diversity within the crop and links to cell wall digestibility. Expertise in feed evaluation, cultivation techniques and plant genetics is being used. We are developing NIRS calibrations to estimate the composition and digestibility of WP triticale as a function of crop development. We study the relationship between lignin content and cell wall digestibility in an association mapping panel of triticale (>100 genotypes). We seek links between genomic regions and different aspects of forage quality via a genome-wide association study (GWAS). We optimize the cultivation technical aspects (variety choice, sowing density, fertilization, growth regulation, harvest time, ensilage...). We bring together all applicable knowledge in an advisory system for cultivation and use of WP triticale.


The final goal of this research is to make whole-plant (WP) triticale applicable for dairy farms.  We communicate the trial results to the farmers via the annual open day at the trial farm in Bottelare (HoGent-UGent). The new advisory system with input from cultivation-technical and genetic aspects probably plays a role. In addition, scientific publications and articles in vulgarisation journals are planned. All results will be compiled in a PhD thesis.

Funding provider(s)

External partner(s)
Effective start/end date15/09/1731/12/22