Planning ahead and knowing a paddock's history are key areas for consideration when deciding whether or not to include durum wheat in a cropping rotation, according to agronomist Jeff Braun.
Presenting at the Southern Australia Durum Growers Association's pre-seeding forum last week, Mr Braun said growers should utilise the months leading up to seeding to make a solid plan for growing durum wheat.
"This time of year is about finding out which variety is best suited for your farm," he said.
"The two main aspects to remember are that planning and management of durum are two very different areas and both need a lot of attention."
Paddock choice is paramount, and it is the first and most important step, Mr Braun says.
"It has to be the best paddock because durum needs it, it is as simple as that," he said.
"After a legume is generally best because it carried a lot of nitrogen, so after faba beans, peas or lentils."
Mr Braun said when compared with Australian Premium White wheat crops, durum had increased sensitivity to nutrient deficiencies, herbicide residue and frost.
"It is important to know where frost hits on a farm because there is no doubt about it, frost will annihilate the crop," he said.
"The alarming part is because a lot of growers are sowing early, a lot of crops are being brought back into the frost window."
Residual water should also not be underestimated for quality durum production.
"I think it is absolutely key and gives the crop finishing ability regardless of the season," Mr Braun said.
"A soil moisture test before you decide which paddock will help give an idea of what the soil profile is before seeding."
Analysis of previous cropping rotations was also a vital step for growers.
Mr Braun said without it, growers could create a high-risk situation for the sensitive crop.
"For example if someone was to grow durum this season in a paddock that had it in 2016, I believe that is a high-risk situation because it was a massive build-up year for crown rot," he said.
"So the rotation's history is really important for carry over of disease and residual herbicides - I follow a pretty conservative five to six-year gap.
He said herbicide residue could cause a 20 per cent to 30pc yield reduction and a non-competitive crop.
"Follow the safe options and do not take a punt on things with durum," Mr Braun said.
INPUTS VITAL FOR YIELD POTENTIAL
PROTEIN potential in durum crops can be boosted significantly by planning nitrogen applications and adding urea-ammonium nitrate products, agronomist Jeff Braun says.
"Sometimes growers miss a bit of a trick by applying nitrogen too early," Mr Braun said.
Mr Braun said a Mid North High Rainfall Zone trial in 2015 collected data about the impact on durum yield and protein of shifting nitrogen applications away from the traditional application times.
The trial revealed that applying 120 kilograms a hectare of nitrogen at seeding produced 13.3 per cent for protein while 60kg/ha at seeding and the same amount at growth stage 31 increased protein to 13.8pc.
But it was applying 120kg/ha at growth stage 31 that boosted protein levels to 15pc.
"All the crops yielded the same but protein development had a big jump," Mr Braun said.
Tactical use of UAN was another tool for durum growers to increase protein levels.
Mr Braun said a long finish to a season does not favour protein development.
"In that situation, growers need to consider UAN products at flowering because by using it tactically the protein can be plumped up," he said.
Mr Braun said protein development was a crucial factor to produce a high quality crop and growers should be making in-crop decisions based on its importance.
- VANESSA BINKS