OSU aims to help farmers cash in on quinoa

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Gluten-free, high-fiber quinoa is the only plant food that provides all the essential amino acids. (Photo by Daniel Robison.)
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The grain has more iron, calcium and potassium than wheat, rice and corn

With the growing popularity of quinoa, Oregon State University 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.

The crop is attractive because of its price. Organic quinoa fetched $3.10 per kilogram in 2010, well above the price of wheat. Less than $70 per ton a decade ago, quinoa now sells for more than $2,000 a ton.

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 $120 per quintal, the gross income would be $2,040, generating a total profit of $1,130 per hectare per year.

In 2009, the U.S. imported nearly $20 million of quinoa from Bolivia, the world's largest exporter of the cereal. The U.S. produces 3,000 metric tons annually, representing 6 percent of world production.

Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's 2011 report "Quinoa: An Ancient Crop to Contribute to World Food Security"; Steve Petrie, director of OSU’s Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center.

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