Skip to main content

Quinoa: A Plant with a Lot of Potential

Posted by Tanisha Greene, National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017
Quinoa is a grain with high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.
Quinoa is a grain with high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.

In February of this year, the United National declared 2013 the International Year of the Quinoa. Yet, I’m sure not many people have even heard of quinoa, let alone know about its nutritional qualities.

Originating from Bolivia, Chile and Peru around 5,000 years ago, quinoa is a grain that is growing in popularity across the country. Consumed like rice and used to make flour, soup, cereals or alcohol, quinoa is very nutritious due to its high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.

Currently, Bolivia and Peru are the leading producers of quinoa, with nearly 80 percent of the world production, while the United States imports 45 percent of the world quinoa production.  Since the 1980s, researchers in the United States have been trying to re-establish quinoa production. Although U.S. production has risen since the 1980’s, with Colorado and Nevada being the pioneer states, the production remains insignificant relative to the favorable climatic conditions, technological potential and demand within this country. Research is needed to help support and sustain this rapidly rising industry.

In 2012, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded Washington State University (WSU) a grant through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. The grant will help develop adapted varieties and optimal management practices for quinoa production in diverse environmental conditions. Additionally, this new knowledge will be disseminated to Extension educators who can educate producers.

As a partial result of this funding, WSU sponsored a conference on quinoa research on August 12-14 in Pullman, Washington. The International Quinoa Research Symposium featured presentations from quinoa experts from around the world. The participant list was diverse, with people coming from as far away as Egypt, Tibet and Australia. The conference included hands-on demonstrations at area field trials, along with discussions and presentations of current research.

As the conference coincided with the International Year of the Quinoa, it helped put the spotlight on this important crop that has potential to improve food security and nutrition while ultimately working toward internationally-agreed upon development goals for the extermination of poverty.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

Write a Response

CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Helen Kamran
Aug 16, 2013

Isincerelyappreciate you, thankyou eversomuch foryourevery inception!

Ed Hance
Aug 16, 2013

What type of soil works best for this plant?
Would it do well in sandy soil in south-central Texas?
How much water does it require compared to other grains?

Catherine Cole
Aug 16, 2013

Can you provide data on Nevada's "pioneering" of the Quinoa crop? Is Nevada's climate and soil favorable?

Larry Lovell
Aug 17, 2013

I have the same questions as Mr. Ed, to include,can it be grown in a hydroponic setting ... thanks LLL

Aug 20, 2013

can it grow in india?


M. Davis
Aug 20, 2013

Quinoa and eggs for breakfast is delicious.

Aug 21, 2013

To Ed;
Having grown it successfully two years here in Northern Maine, I can tell you it will grow just fine in marginal soil.

claudio santos
Aug 22, 2013

could you share a technical study about quinoa crop o more information how can we grow it? thanks and greetins since Jalisco, Mex.

Vance Wells
Aug 22, 2013

I get very concerned when non-native plant are introduced to new areas with out sufficient evidence that they will not become intrusive eg. Russian olive, Japanese bamboo, Matrimony vine,purple loose strife and many others. Often the introduced species are not as valuable as the plants that are displaced by their introduction

Aug 23, 2013

From what I just read, I don't see it becoming a staple crop like wheat, sorgum or other grains. It doesn't lend itself to mechanized harvest, as the stalks have multiple heads and they mature at different rates.
But if you were in favor of a specialty crop, and had access to the manual labor for harvesting - go for it. You can read a lot more about Quinoa on Wikipedia, including it's history and horticultural data:

Aug 23, 2013

Vance: It is good to be thoughtful. More study is better than fear. Keep in mind this is a cultivated annual, no more invasive than the existing "weedy" species of chenopodium in the US and elsewhere. The "intrusive" species you named were not grown for food. It could be welcome as naturalized food plant.

Kenny Jimenez
Nov 16, 2013

I've had good success growing Quinoa on my property in Mount Shasta, California since 2008. Last Spring I had some of the seeds from the 2012 crop sow themselves.

bubby bub
Dec 11, 2013

How can quinoa make into beer?

David Wu
Jan 26, 2014

We are the pioneer of quinoa a reseacher and planting in China. The critical facts for quinoa is sea level height and temperature(lower than 32C). and seed treatment ,sowing is very important for quinoa success planting.

Srinivasa Rao
Apr 02, 2014

Quinoa can be eaten like rice and wheat. We are growing in india. I wish to grow in New York and North Carolina. i request the people growing in USA to help me with information and any seed that is growing well in USA. My email ID is

Jun 12, 2014

@Scott, you said "From what I just read, I don’t see it becoming a staple crop like wheat, sorgum or other grains. It doesn’t lend itself to mechanized harvest, as the stalks have multiple heads and they mature at different rates." But, that is the reason wsu and the usda are trialing varieties, to find those traits. I'm excited about the potential and am integrating quinoa into my permaculture system. I will also experiment with brewing a tasty beer. Search for Ives Organics to find results.

Jun 26, 2014

Quinoa is super rich in protein and fiber.

Duane Johnson
Aug 20, 2014

We brought quinoa from Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina to the United States in 1982 and evaluated a total of 113 varieties. Most of the varieties were very day-length sensitive, requiring too short a day or too long a season for temperate Colorado. Varieties developed from coastal Chile and southern Bolivia, however, were very productive in the high elevations of southwestern Colorado. These became the basis for U.S. production.

joe jolelini
Jul 23, 2015

I have a question from friends.
Where can I get quinoa seed for farming in Canada?
Please give me address where should I get the quinoa seed for grow.
Thank you.Good time.

Ben Weaver
Jul 23, 2015

@joe jolelini - thank you for your question. We suggest contacting Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Government of Canada’s agriculture resource for its citizens. Contact information for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada can be found here:

Barbara Elizabeth Burton
May 04, 2021

I wrote a paper focused on chenopodium production as a food staple for Middle Woodland/Hopewell archaeological complexes. I also spent over 19 years with the USDA, mostly in international agriculture, although I have also served for 6 years as a county extension director. Anyway, I noted that the US imports for quinoa in 2019 had increased significantly, and I have to wonder why US producers are not producing quinoa? Now, mostly classified as a "noxious weed", it seems to thrive in the most hostile environments, and loves to colonize disturbed areas. It seems ideally suited to be a specialty crop on marginal lands. I don't know how much research has been conducted in the differences in nutritional content between the imports and local varieties, but I have also heard that the greens have been used in the US in addition to the seeds. This is just one of those"wonder why nots". Thanks.

Barbara Elizabeth Burton
May 04, 2021

I had one more thought, after reading the string of comments. There are many varieties of chenopodium that were in use over 1500 - 2000 years ago in Illinois. Chenopodium still grows wild practically everywhere. When I teach anthropology, I usually show students a specimen that I have picked out of a flower bed on campus. Therefore, it might not be necessary to import seeds from abroad. Further, in Illinois, Chenopodium is "invasive", in that it IS considered a weed. However, it was growing here long before the settlers arrived in the midwest, and was in use as a food source supporting major population centers.