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Durum Production

Durum is one of the smallest classes of wheat grown in the U.S.  Durum in the U.S. is classified as either Northern Durum or Desert Durum.  Northern durum is primarily grown in North Dakota and Montana and Desert Durum is grown in Arizona and California.

Durum thrives in a climate characterized by cool summer nights, long warm days, adequate but not excessive rainfalls and a dry harvest - conditions typical of western North Dakota.  Durum production has moved further west in recent years due to disease issues commonly associated with wet conditions.  Durum is planted between mid-April and the end of May, and harvested in August or September.

In the U.S., total durum acreage equates to two million acres on average with total production of 75 million bushels.  Average U.S. yield is 40 bushels per acre.

In North Dakota, durum is planted on about 1.2 million acres with average production totaling 42 million bushels.
About two-thirds of U.S. durum is used domestically, while the other third is exported to 15 different countries around the world.  Italy and Algeria are typically the two largest U.S. durum markets.


Durum Quality

Durum is the hardest of all wheats. Its density, combined with its high protein content and gluten strength, make durum the wheat of choice for producing premium pasta products. Pasta made from durum is firm with consistent cooking quality. Durum kernels are amber-colored and larger than those of other wheat classes. Also unique to durum is its yellow endosperm, which gives pasta its golden hue. 

Like other classes of wheat, durum is graded based factors as defined by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).

Subclass is a separate marketing factor based on vitreous kernel content.  For durum wheat, the subclasses are:
  • Hard Amber Durum (HAD) - at least 75 percent hard, vitreous kernels
  • Amber Durum (AD) - between 60 and 74 percent hard, vitreous kernels
  • Durum (D) - less than 60 percent hard, vitreous kernels
When durum is milled, the endosperm is ground into a granular product called semolina. A mixture of water and semolina forms a stiff dough. Pasta dough is then forced through dies, or metal discs with holes, to create hundreds of different shapes. 
Quality strengths of North Dakota durum include bright yellow semolina, high protein, high semolina extraction and strong gluten.

The majority of the durum varieties grown in North Dakota are developed at North Dakota State University.  Prospective varieties are evaluated on the basis of kernel, milling and semolina characteristics, including the ease of processing and the quality of the end product. The durum breeder's goal is a disease-resistant, high-yielding, strong-gluten, high-quality variety.

For more information on grading parameters, quality characteristics and definitions, and quality of the current year's crop, please visit the Durum Quality Report.

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