Palm trees and durum wheat

Palm trees and durum wheat, Gila Valley east of Yuma

Palm trees and durum wheat, Gila Valley east of Yuma

One of the things we do with Colorado River water is grow durum wheat in the Gila River Valley. Durum is used to make pasta. Here in the valley around Yuma, where the Gila River meets the Colorado in Arizona’s southwestern corner, durum is planted as a cover crop in spring on land that derives its primary income from winter vegetables.

The growth of a winter vegetable agricultural base here over the last four decades has been extraordinarily lucrative, and it also uses less water than the old days when they irrigated cotton and alfalfa during the crucible that is summer in the Lower Colorado River desert. Total annual water use here is about 20 percent less than it was in the 1970s, when the shift to winter lettuce began. (The Yuma County Agriculture Water Coalition has much more background on water use here, including an interesting report arguing the case for the efficiency of their water use.)

Most U.S. durum wheat is grown in North Dakota, with California, Arizona and Montana also contributing. (source pdf)

One Comment

  1. I lived in Yuma in the early 70’s. At that time a lot of acreage was planted in citrus. Winter crops of lettuce and vegetables were the big ticket items. These were labor intensive crops. The labor was there and the bulk of the workforce boarded school busses at San Luis before sun up. I remember that the North Gila Valley had fantastic soil.

    I came back to the Yuma area 20 years later and saw less citrus and more automation in the fields. Algodones had changed too. Seems that somewhere down the line it had become a Dentist mecca.

    Also, 20 years later – I’ve got to spend a great deal of time in all of the agricultural areas bordering the river from Ft Mohave to Winterhaven. Still think the the soils around Yuma are the best on the river.

    I wanted to ask – did you ever stop off for one of those “Date Shake” places in the Bard area? Great, aren’t they? On the flip side, they have a tendency to have a laxative effect on some people.


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