Improvements in water productivity and yield arise from interactions between varieties (G) and their management (M). Most G×M interactions considered by breeders and physiologists focus on in-crop management (e.g. sowing time, plant density, N management). However, opportunities exist to capture more water and use it more effectively that involve judicious management of prior crops and fallows (e.g. crop sequence, weed control, residue management). The dry-land wheat production system of southern Australia, augmented by simulation studies, is used to demonstrate the relative impacts and interactions of a range of pre-crop and in-crop management decisions on water productivity. A specific case study reveals how a novel genetic trait, long coleoptiles that enable deeper sowing, can interact with different management options to increase the water-limited yield of wheat from 1.6 t ha(-1) to 4.5 t ha(-1), reflecting the experience of leading growers. Understanding such interactions will be necessary to capture benefits from new varieties within the farming systems of the future.