Ardeshir B. Damania, Plant Sciences, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA
Durum wheat (Triticum durum Desf.), one of the first crops to be domesticated, originally came to us from the Levant Region of the Near East and the Ethiopian Highlands about 10,000 years ago. Wheat cultivation was introduced into Mexico in 1521 by early colonizers, but it did not appear in the territory that would later become the United States and Canada until 1602 with the arrival of the first explorers, settlers, and adventurers. After introduction, the main wheat production today comes from Montana, North Dakota, and Kansas among others in the U.S. and the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan in Canada among others. In the state of California, the San Joaquin Valley and the Imperial Valley are the two growing areas. According to FAO (2012), world production of both durum and bread wheat was 662 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (844 million tons) and rice (672 million tons). U.S. durum wheat production in 2012 was 1.5 million tons, but due to demand and upward moving prices the 2012-2013 projected yields is expected to be 2.5 million tons. However, since the U.S. also exports half of durum wheat production and because pizzas and pasta are very popular, significant imports of durum wheat is also needed to fulfill the total demand. Durum wheat in general commands higher prices in the world market than bread wheat. There are many other uses of durum wheat besides pasta and pizzas. There are several major pasta-makers both domestic and foreign. A world without pasta seems inconceivable. And yet, with the sword of climate change hanging over the durum-growing areas of North America farmers are not very sure of the future of durum wheat.