North Dakota is the nation’s dominant durum producer. But the crop, which is used for pasta, is grown in the irrigated deserts of the southwestern U.S. - where its production sometimes is criticized as a poor use of scarce water.

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Now,a  new study concludes that such criticism isn’t warranted, according to U.S. Wheat Associates, which develops markets for wheat around the world.

The study, by George Frisvold of the University of Arizona, found that wheat, and specifically so-called Desert Durum, is good for sustainable agriculture in the Southwest. Desert Durum is a trademark of the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council and the California Wheat Commission. It refers only to durum wheat produced under irrigation in the desert valleys and lowlands of Arizona and California.

Frisvold found that using wheat in a rotation with vegetables in the area increases farmer profit significantly and maximizes economic productivity of water use. His work also found that amount of water needed to produce one bushel of Desert Durum in Arizona has dropped 18 percent in the past 30 years.

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