OSU aims to help farmers cash in on quinoa

bowl of quinoa
Gluten-free, high-fiber quinoa is the only plant food that provides all the essential amino acids. (Photo by Daniel Robison.)

The grain has more iron, calcium and potassium than wheat, rice and corn

With the growing popularity of quinoa, OSU aims to help farmers tap into the potentially lucrative market. OSU researchers have planted the high-protein superfood in the Willamette Valley and Columbia Basin and are monitoring how it fares in various soils, weather conditions, levels of irrigation and organic growing methods. Watch them plant the seeds in this video. OSU is also collaborating with Washington State University to breed new varieties that tolerate heat.

The crop is attractive because of its price. At less than $70 per ton a decade ago, quinoa now sells for more than $3,000 a ton -- well above the price of wheat. Additionally, it doesn't require much labor or inputs. It costs $910 to grow one hectare of organic quinoa. Considering an average yield of 760 kilograms per hectare and a price of $300 per quintal, the gross income would be $5,776, generating a total profit of $4,866 per hectare per year.

In 2012, the U.S. market accounted for about 23 metric tons of quinoa imports, with about two-thirds percent coming from Bolivia and Peru, the world's two largest exporters of the cereal.

Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's 2011 report "Quinoa: An Ancient Crop to Contribute to World Food Security"; Stephen Machado, OSU’s Columbia Basin Agricultural Research CenterFAO Food Outlook, 2013

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