5 success secrets for quality durum

Paying attention to details pays dividends when growing durum wheat, says Mark Birdsall, Berthold, N.D.

Fertility. Every acre is soil tested. Proper fertility will help durum meet hard count, protein and other quality standards. It also helps durum get through a minor wet event at harvest without sprouting. Birdsall applies fertilizer through his air seeder’s mid-row bander during seeding. He seeds durum in rows 10 inches apart and knifes the fertilizer in between every other row.

Key Points

• Growing a good durum crop requires attention to details.

• Fertility and disease control need to be perfect.

• Harvest timing is critical to avoid sprouting, other losses.At the top of his list of things to do right with durum:


Disease control. “We don’t seed an acre that we don’t plan on spraying with fungicide,” Birdsall says. Head scab is the biggest threat, but leaf diseases take a toll, too. Scab is worst when the weather is warm and wet. But Birdsall recently learned that it pays to spray even in a dry year. A trial by Vision Research Park, a private research firm, showed a 6-bushel-per-acre advantage for treated durum over untreated durum in a dry year.

Controlled traffic. Fungi-cides and postemergent herbicides are applied with a high crop sprayer. Autosteer with a guidance system keeps the sprayer in the same track on each pass. Fields are sprayed three or four times each growing season, but there is only one set of wheel tracks.

Harvest timing. Harvest begins when the crop has dried to 16% to 17% in the field. Durum goes into bins with aeration fans. To prevent all their durum fields from ripening at the same time, Birdsall staggers planting dates and varieties by maturity, and strives for a uniform planting depth. “We avoid anything that will cause uneven emergence or ripening.”

New technology. Birdsall hired Vision Research Park to help manage the crop this year. He wants help keeping up with the latest technology and products, and identifying and ranking factors that are limiting yields.

“Success with durum,” he says, “is not about spending the most money. It’s about putting the dollars in the right place.”

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Durum MASTER: Mark Birdsall checks out a good-looking crop.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.