Strong agronomy, world class quality
“Why do I grow durum up here? Well, if you ever tried to harvest bread wheat after a good flood – you’d know!” is the response of Mr Mike Mailler, of Whalen Creek in far northern New South Wales.
‘Wonga South’ on Whalen Creek, 20km southwest of Bogabilla, is typical Coolabah floodplain – deep-cracking clay loams – and susceptible to inundation. “Durum’s have the standing ability and sprouting tolerance to go underwater and come out with their heads up,” according to Mr Mailler, who has not grown bread wheat on the property for many years.
Kamilaroi is Mr Mailler’s favourite variety – “it’s a tough wheat that does well in tough times” – but he also grows Yallaroi, Wollaroi and now Bellaroi in a 2000ha annual durum program.
“The problem we have had has been no variety for early sowing. For us Bellaroi will spread the sowing window and that’s important with our big (4000ha) cropping program,” says Mr Mailler.
“We often get a March rain and then nothing and our cracking soils may be too dry by mid-May when its time to sow the durum. Having the Bellaroi‘option’ to sow a couple of weeks earlier may make all the difference.”
EGA Bellaroi is the latest durum wheat variety released by the Enterprise Grains Australia breeding program at Tamworth in northern NSW. Compared to Wollaroi, the new variety has improved grain quality, stronger straw strength and is of longer maturity, filling a niche for sowing earlier than has been possible with existing varieties.
EGA Bellaroi has good resistance to stem, leaf and stripe rust, loose and flag smuts and stinking bunt, and to yellow spot and root lesion nematode. Like other durums, it is very susceptible to crown rot. EGA Bellaroi has an AWB Limited classification of ‘Australian premium durum’.
Mr Mailler has a second reason for liking the new variety, and that is the consistently high protein achievement of EGA Bellaroi. Faba beans make up most of the rest of Mr Mailler’s cropping program. “We rely on legumes and use virtually no bag nitrogen.
That helps the budget, but we can suffer at delivery time on protein and grade.”
In 2001 Mr Mailler tested EGA Bellaroi against Yallaroi in the same paddock; both yielded about 3.5 tonnes per hectare, but the EGA Bellaroi had 13.8 percent protein against the Yallaroi’s 12.3 percent. With payment for protein in place, “that’s money for jam”, according to Mr Mailler.
At ‘Newhaven’ on the Breeza Plain 40km south of Gunnedah, Mr David Tudgey and family farm 1800ha of typical Liverpool Plain black, self-mulching clay soil. Mr Tudgey grew EGA Bellaroi in 2001 as part of the variety’s commercial evaluation for milling and pasta quality.
“Frost is always a worry for us,” Mr Tudgey says. “Kamilaroi and Wollaroi are both pretty quick and having a longer variety will spread our risk – much as we can do with bread wheat.” It will also mean more options at seeding.
Currently Mr Tudgey prefers to sow Kamilaroi and Wollaroi no earlier than 1 June, or mid-June on his lower country, and using EGA Bellaroi will allow a greater spread of planting time. Milling of his commercial evaluation crop took place at Brisbane’s Weston Milling.
“The standout feature for us was the bright yellow colour of the Bellaroi semolina,” says Mr Denis Hawke, manager of Weston Milling.
“Kamilaroi and Yallaroi were ‘so-so’ for colour, Wollaroi raised the industry standard and now Bellaroi is improving even on that.”
Weston Milling supplies local pasta manufacturers and also exports durum semolina. “Varietal quality continues to improve, and the industry will benefit from semolinas with the combination of high dough strength and high level of yellow colour which Bellaroi offers,” according to Mr Hawke.
Some of the semolina from Weston Milling made its way back to the Tudgey family’s kitchen. “It was quite a buzz to know that we had grown, delivered, had milled and were now eating the best quality pasta in the world,” says Mr Tudgey.
Doug and Helen Cush farm in durum’s ‘golden triangle’, halfway between Narrabri and Moree in northern NSW. “Durum is a passionate crop, like the Italians who eat it,” according to Mr Cush. And Mr Cush is passionate about it, too! Passionate enough to grow the grain, mill it and, from early 2004, make pasta in his own pasta plant being built at Tamworth.
Quality is the key for Mr Cush, and living in what he believes is the best durum growing environment in the world, with access to the highquality varieties from the EGA durum breeding program, makes a winning combination.
“We are quality assured growers and we use HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) right through from sowing the grain to producing the pasta,” says Mr Cush. The family’s ‘Bellata Gold’ pasta products are already in strong demand as one of the few 100 percent durum pasta products on the Australian market.
Quality assurance starts with only durum being grown on the family’s Bellata property ‘Saltwell’. “Contamination by bread wheat is a big issue for durum growers and one of the reasons the industry needs to keep seed costs down,” says Mr Cush.
He is critical of the commercialisation of EGA Bellaroi and believes that it should have been done through durum growers themselves. He says that we have the best durum breeder in the world in Dr Ray Hare at NSW Agriculture, “but we have had to wait 10 years for Bellaroi to be released and then we pay a fortune for the seed!”. His plea is for more industry involvement in durum breeding and its commercialisation.
“Bellaroi? It’s our first year, but it came off 1-2 percent better than the Wollaroi and we will use it to sow on the rains that are too early for the older, quicker varieties,” says Mr Cush. He is also waiting with anticipation for the first milling of his EGA Bellaroi grain.
“People don’t know how much dye and egg goes into pasta to make it yellow. With Bellaroi in the mix we will be able to match them with a pure durum product in ‘Bellata Gold’.”
EGA Bellaroi is protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act, 1994 and a levy of $2.50 a tonne is payable on all grain except that retained by the grower for the purpose of sowing subsequent grain crops.
Proceeds of the levy are shared by the breeding organisation, the commercialisation agent and the GRDC, and are substantially returned to growers through reinvestment in research. Seed of EGA Bellaroi is available through PlantTech.
For more information:
David Tudgey, 02 6744 5815
Mike Mailler, 07 4676 5156
Doug Cush, 02 6793 7832
GRDC Research code: EGA00001, program 1
Varieties displaying this symbol beside them are protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994.