Introducing Organic Quinoa Production Systems in the Palouse

The popularity of quinoa in the past decade has quadrupled prices at U.S. retail outlets. For all this demand, the vast majority of the quinoa consumed in the U.S. is imported from Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, with 65% of the quinoa sold in the U.S. being organic. This project hopes to increase organic quinoa production in the U.S. by providing growers in the Palouse region of eastern Washington – a large conventional grain-producing region – an opportunity to diversify their current cropping systems and marketing options. In March 2013, we established a long-term certified organic research project on a 1.2-ha parcel of a commercial grain farm in the Palouse region, WA, to measure the sustainability of various organic grain rotations with and without two varieties of quinoa. Our goal of this systems study was to improve the competitiveness and adoption by growers of organic quinoa in the Palouse. Supporting objectives include measuring the following sustainability indicators of 8 different organic rotation trials: crop yield and quality, weed and insect populations, soil quality, nitrogen and phosphorus budgets, and economic performance. This project also has improved understanding and management of soil quality by characterizing the interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in the different rotations. We have communicated this project to producers, consumers, and Extension agents through a webpage within csanr.wp2.cahnrs.wsu, social media utilities, multiple field days at the Zakarison Farm, and will continue to present final results at producer meetings and scientific conferences. BIOAg Priority Topic Areas addressed include organic approaches to sustainable management of soil quality and farming systems; diversification to increase the resiliency and sustainability of farming; and assessment of environmental, economic, and social sustainability of agricultural systems.

Project website

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 134
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Reganold, J.
  • Investigator(s): Benedict, C., Crowder, D., Murphy, K., Painter, K.
  • Grant Amount: $18,950


  • Principal Investigator(s): Reganold, J.
  • Investigator(s): Benedict, C., Crowder, D., Murphy, K., Painter, K.
  • Grant Amount: $18,950


  • Principal Investigator(s): Reganold, J.
  • Investigator(s): Benedict, C., Crowder, D., Murphy, K., Painter, K.
  • Grant Amount: $6,920
  • 2016 Progress Report (PDF)


A webpage for the project was set up through CSANR, featuring the project description, links to the research team biographies, photos of the field site, announcements/events, and links to other relevant websites. The webpage can be found at: Public events (presentations) and links to project information will continue to be disseminated on social media platforms like Facebook and ResearchGate to increase the audience for outreach.
As data continue being collected from lab analyses, manuscripts for publication and presentations for conferences will be under preparation. These publications will be made available on the project website as they are completed.

Additional Funds Leveraged

1. USDA-NIFA Organic Transitions ($498,894)
– Applied April 2014, project not funded but recommended for NIFA OREI program
2. USDA-NIFA Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI) ($996,259)
– Applied April 2015, not funded
3. WSARE Graduate Student Grants in Sustainable Agriculture ($25,000)
– Applied May 2015, not funded
4. Supplemental funding from BioAg ($6,920)
– Secured January 2016
5. USDA AFRI Pre-doctoral Fellowship ($93,657)
– Funded August 2016
6. USDA-NIFA OREI ($1,999,950)
– Funded 2016
7. WSARE Graduate Student Grants in Sustainable Agriculture ($25,000)
– Funded 2016


• Short-Term: We are continually increasing the amount of information known about the challenges and benefits of growing quinoa in this region, including planting rates and dates, interactions with weeds, post-harvest processing, the effects on soil quality, and economic implications. With the help of this project, the acreage of quinoa in the region has continually expanded over the past 4 years. This project has also provided feedback to other researchers working with quinoa, both by providing insight on overcoming the agronomic challenges and also by providing many more questions for future research.
• Intermediate-Term: We expect to have a better understanding of how large-scale dryland organic farming operations can be productive and economically viable by incorporating quinoa in crop rotations. As researchers and producers work together to create locally adapted varieties of quinoa, we expect not only organic but also conventional producers in the Palouse to take advantage of the opportunity to diversify their cropping systems with quinoa and, in turn, their income base.
• Long-Term: There is good potential for a more diversified agricultural landscape in the Palouse region as more farmers become aware of the opportunities that quinoa and organic cropping systems provide. We expect to see locally grown quinoa appearing at farmers markets and in local food co-ops. Knowledge and adoption of organic quinoa and grain production will spread outside the Palouse region and throughout the Northwest as a result of this integrated research and extension project. New crops and systems will strengthen the economic and social resilience of rural communities. Adoption of organic and conservation practices that meet environmental stewardship goals will improve environmental services of the agricultural landscape.