Developing adapted varieties and optimal management practices for quinoa in diverse environments across Washington State

Quinoa is a highly nutritious and broadly adapted grain crop in high demand in the US and particularly in the Pacific Northwest region. However, very little is known about appropriate varieties and farming practices, including irrigation needs, fertility requirements and potential intercropping strategies to help control weeds and provide supplemental nitrogen. Our project would primarily address the FY12 priority area of breeding, varietal selection and management practices to increase the availability, quality, and production of quinoa across Washington State. Our specific objectives include: 1) continuation and expansion of our variety x nitrogen treatment trials in eastern Washington (Pullman); 2) development of variety x leguminous intercrop x irrigation trials in central (Prosser) and western (Chimacum) Washington to better represent environmental conditions in targeted growing regions; 3) advancement of early generation lines from crosses made in 2011 using the most optimally adapted quinoa varieties as parents; 4) development of relationships between quinoa farmers, wholesalers and marketers. This project will provide vital support to a current graduate student to conduct variety trials that focus on nitrogen use efficiency and salt tolerance among quinoa cultivars and will also assist a second graduate student who will be starting in August 2012 to develop and initiate farmer participatory breeding studies. Our overall goals are to: 1) integrate variety testing of a novel crop with agronomic management practices (irrigation and nitrogen inputs) and agroecological and soil building practices (intercropping) to develop viable quinoa production systems;, 2) initiate and expedite the critical early steps of the quinoa breeding process; and; 3) disseminate information to target diverse audiences using a range of extension outreach methodology.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 112
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Murphy, K.
  • Investigator(s): Benedict, C., Desta, K., Jaeckel, B.
  • Grant Amount: $34,867
  • 2012 Progress Report (PDF)



Organic Quinoa Production in the Pacific Northwest Webinar
International Quinoa Research Symposium Webinar Series
Book chapter (submitted for publication and past peer review): Peterson, AJ and KM Murphy. Quinoa in USA and Canada. 22 pp. In D Bazile et al. (ed.) The 2013 State of the World’s Quinoa. FAO, Rome, Italy.
Thesis: Peterson, AJ. 2012. Salinity Tolerance and Nitrogen Use Efficiency of Quinoa for Expanded Production in Temperate North America. MS Thesis. Washington State University. Pullman, Washington.

Additional Funds Leveraged

We received a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant of ~$1.6M. Cooperators on this grant included Oregon State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.


• Short-Term:

1. Preliminary and multi-state quinoa variety trials have shown the varied environmental pressures quinoa faces in our region. Varieties have been identified as having superior traits, such as high heat tolerance, early maturity, and pre-harvest sprouting tolerance. This information can be communicated to growers to aid them in selecting which currently commercially available varieties may be most suitable for their locations.

2. Many growers interested in quinoa live in areas too hot during the summer to allow for proper seed set. The preliminary results of our irrigation x intercropping trial indicate that irrigation counteracts the negative effects of heat and can play a role in expanding the range where quinoa can be grown.

• Intermediate-Term:

1. Several lines were selected from the populations screened in 2012 and 2013. Based on the performance of these lines in regional variety trials, these may ultimately be released to farmers.
2. Upon completion of the irrigation x intercropping trial, information on winter hardy cover crops that work well intercropped with quinoa can be released to farmers.

• Long-Term:

1. Crosses made between quinoa varieties will continue to be advanced and will be selected upon in later years. As of the current time, no quinoa varieties have been bred, selected, and released in a controlled breeding program in the United States. The populations generated from these crosses lay the groundwork for developing adapted varieties for the Pacific Northwest region.
2. The high salt tolerance of some adapted Chilean lowland cultivars was confirmed in the salinity trial. If quinoa’s cultivation in the United States expands to salt affected agricultural land, the use of Chilean varieties with high salt tolerance, such as the two identified in the study, will be important.