Quinoa II

Lead Organization:

The Foundation for the Promotion and Investigation of Andean Products PROINPA

Community of Practice:







A series of adverse factors characterize the agroecological conditions in the Bolivian Altiplano (low soil fertility, irregular and low precipitation, frost, hail, and drought), which confer high risk for both plant and animal production. This situation accentuates vulnerability for families, leading to poverty and food insecurity. This environmental variability causes unfavorable changes in agroecosystems that are more rapid than processes of adaptation. These environmental changes translate into intensification of pest infestations and plant disease, and the rise of new types of infestation and disease that have not previously been anticipated through organic management strategies.For these reasons, we must strengthen our management strategies for quinoa and potato, which are the most important production systems in the Altiplano. We can implement this stronger strategy through participatory technological innovation and developing components for more efficient integrated management, such that farming families can adapt their management approach to counter adverse factors in a way that is advantageous and efficient.

Grant Aims:

Farmers can count on high quality seed and productive varieties of quinoa and potato to confront risks they face because of adverse factors.Farmers will implement integrated pest and disease management strategies for quinoa and potato.Equipment for planting, harvest, and post-harvest processing of quinoa and potato will be tested and distributed.Producer organizations will be formed to facilitate production and commercialization.Training and extension methods will be tested and developed in light of the socioeconomic situation of the Central and Northern Altiplano regions.Trained technicians will promote and assist sustainable quinoa and potato production. The project’s products are considered to be in the public domain for small- and medium-scale producers, and for research and development institutions.

Outputs and Outcomes:

  • Leveraged project research on alternative uses for quinoa to help form an alliance with Loreal to use saponins (a byproduct in quinoa processing) for cosmetics. In addition to using some of PROINPA’s research on saponins Loreal is also supporting PROINPA’s work on preventing erosion by planting native legumes with 250 farmers in Uyuni, Boliva. This partnership also includes organic quinoa exporter Andean Valley and EcoTerra, an importer. In return Loreal has provided PROINPA with their data on saponin levels in different quinoa varieties that PROINPA plans to use in its IPM program.
  • Market context: 2014-2015 market monitoring based on key informant conversations with brokers and exporter shows that there was a large drop in the quinoa price in Bolivia from $7.27/ kilo to $5.48 USD mostly due to a large increase in conventional production in Peru that is sold on the black market in Bolivia and resold as organic. The price for red and black quinoa, which are more rare are 30% higher. Indeed buyers are tending to buy white quinoa only when the provider is also providing other colors to prove that it is not from Peru. In the last few years the percentage of white grain produced has gone from 95% in 2007 to 70% in 2016. Normally colored varieties are only grown in the Central and Northern altiplano. Interestingly almost all the quinoa aggregators are women, possibly because they are more sensitive to quality, better at negotiating and better at carefully managing money than men.
  • Breeding: In Bolivia PROINPA continues evaluating promising lines and varieties of quinoa for improved resistance to mildew, large size, color, yield and precocity in line with what they perceive to be the criteria of producers and the industry. Interviews with quinoa buyers and transformers indicate that they are only interested in whiteness, large size and quality. PROINPA has sweet lines of quinoa that require less use of water processing to clean of the saponins, but the agroindustry has not taken to them, possibly because of sourcing concerns (they can’t be visually distinguished from other varieties.) Testing of lines is done in the three main ecosystems, this year 27 genotypes and 18 lines were evaluated. 9 lines are showing a cycle of 101-135 days (precocity is considered under 150 days) and 9 other lines have less than 18% incidence of mildew, over 30% is considered non-resistant. They are having trouble combining these traits and think farmers will choose the varieties that are most important for their context, or the context of each plot. 2016: they are being testing in 3 different contexts: altiplano north, central and south in both experimental stations and farmers’ fields. In varieties tested in the central altiplano, only 20% of the generational populations were resistant to frost and hail and 6% of the selected individuals.
  • Seed production: In the 2014-2015 season 18 T of quinoa seed was produced of 14 varieties by communities and research stations supported by PROINPA in 3 different eco-zones of highland Bolivia. The characteristics of the seed vary widely by color, days to harvest, resistant to mildew. The yields ranged from 93-2529 kg/ ha depending on the site and the variety, they do not average this information but provide variety x location information. The most seed  produced (12 T) was of Real blanca, a native variety that performs well in the Southern Altiplano, followed by 2 T of Jacha grano, a PROINPA variety that does better in Northern and Central Altiplano. This seed will cover 3000 ha. PROINPA sold 3440 kg of the total 18T seed, the rest was distributed/ sold by local communities and partners.
  • Pheromones: The use of pheromone traps has been the most effective and adopted organic technology for the control of adult lepidoptera (rafaelitos) that attack quinoa plants in Bolivia. Thus Proinpa is trying to synthesize pheromones for the other main quinoa pest the quinoa moth (Eutysacca quinoae).  Sufficient genitals and female pupae have to be sent to the Pherobank laboratory in Holland to synthesize the hormone. This involves raising and dissecting a large moth population in Bolivia. Proinpa was able to successfully establish a moth colony a raise 5 continuous generations and sent 325 genital gland and 1350 female pupae to Holland.
  • Ecopesticides: PROINPA has been testing organic treatments to determine their effectiveness for organic quinoa production in Bolivia. In order to determine the best method first 3 different protocols were tested: one was to count the number of alive and dead ticona (lepidoptera) larvae before and after 2 and 7 days after spraying in 10 random plants within a randomized block experiment of the treatments, the second was to find plants with at least 50 larvae, spray them and then count live and dead larvae after 2 and 7 days, and the third method was to place exactly 5 larvae on 20 quinoa panicles, spray them with the treatment, put a net over them and do the 2 and 7 day count. This last method was the best because the larva could not escape and was equal in each treatment. The experiments were done in three eco-zones. The results show that the commercial, imported ecopesticide Entrust and the pathogen Dipel kill over 90% of the ticona larva after 7 days and Entrust has the same effectiveness on quinoa moth larva, although Dipel is not very effective on quinoa moth larva. These are both expensive and not easily accessible. The only other treatments that killed over 60% of the larva after 7 days was hot pepper extract  (66%) on quinoa moth in one community but only 38% in another, so there is a strong OxC relationship.
  • Multiplication of local bushes and native legumes for soil health: In the past 20 years quinoa production in Bolivia has tripled from 46,000 ha to 131,000 ha, meaning mostly a loss of the native vegetation from the landscape in these areas that was important for soil health (organic matter, nitrogen fixation, forage and erosion control). PROINPA has been working on methods to reinsert some of this native vegetation into the ecosystem in a more efficient manner. Native plants are important because they are the only species that are adapted to this extreme climate of high altitudes, freezing temperatures (6C) and drought. However, that also means their seeds can have high levels of dormancy and are also difficult to collect since they are wild species. PROINPA has been able to achieve 90% germination in the lab and 75% emergence in the field by scratching the seeds before germinating. They have developed a machine that can scarify 20 kilos of seed in 10 mins.  Research also show manuel methods using corse sand takes 45 mins to do 20 kilos.
  • Quinoa monitoring network: Using GIS, expert knowledge, publically available demographic information and local records, the project was able to construct a representative sample of quinoa growers across the southern and central altiplano of Bolivia, in order to establish a network to monitor the diversity of quinoa management to help inform options x context decisions. The project was socialized among participating communities and 323 farmers (“local reporters”) from 190 communities were chosen and interviewed using ODK during the sowing season (Oct, 2015). Together with the farmers it was decided that 3 additional monitoring moments would be tracked: plant emergence, panicle, and grain developed, noting pest and diseases, climatic conditions, varieties and yields as well as general socio-economic information of the reporters. Namely, 71% of the reporters are men, 36% are less than 40 years of age, 90% have a cell phone and 10% have a smart phone. 27% belong to an association (up to now most dissemination has been done through associations, and this shows that does not reach the majority of farmers), almost all of the farmers cultivate organic quinoa and have their own land. 25 varieties of quinoa are being cultivated for a total of 10,175 kilos sown over 2434 hectares, mostly with 6 main varieties. In 2016 the number of members in the network went down to 245and in 2017 down to 220, of these, 54 are involved in an active Farmer Research Network, the rest just respond to phonecalls asking for monitoring informaiton. In 2017 80% of the farmers said they had lost 50% of their crop Many network farmers not show up for events to return data in their zone, it is observed that there is a lack of interest in the network because it doesn’t respond with alternative technologies, they want training and technical assistance. Of the municiple authorities who expressed interest in the network, only 40% went to events.
  • In 2015-2016 season 705 kg of 9 varieties of quinoa seed were sold by PROINPA in Bolivia, which covers around 90 ha. However 78% was for just one variety (Jacha Grano). Also the demand for seed has decreased due to falling prices. In 2014-2015, PROINPA sold 761 kg and in 2015-2016 359 kg. Certified seed vendors say they have had the most luck selling to State agencies. The demand for mildew resistant seeds is especially depressed because mildew attacks in less traditional areas, where farmers don’t tend to plant if prices are not good.
  • 3 new eco-pesticides for quinoa moth were tested, 2 of them “local Bt” and “Aphkiller” reached levels of 80% or more mortality after 7 days, the third 76%. All 3 are better than the current market product “Agritop”, although farmer informants say that while Agritop (a mixture of sulfate calcium and hot pepper) is not great for the moths, it is an effective deterent for rabbits.
  • In Bolivia 4 different mildew resistant quinoa varieties were planted at 3 different planting dates with the application of ecological disease control at the first sign of mildew. Initial results show that one variety was the most successful (Patacamaya) at keeping mildew levels between 10-20%, the middle planting date had the lowest levels of mildew in general.
  • Experiments on the effects of wind erosion were done in 5 plots in 1 farmer’s field in Bolivia to compare “improved fallows” planted with the grass Eragrotis curvula (pasto lloron) and plowed fields. The plowed fields which showed a rage of 0.37-2.53 cm of soil loss in one season, the improved pastures retained between 0.53-3.2 cm. Another experiment using planted living barriers consisting of a mix between grasses and bushes show that in the control 4.45 cm of soil is lost, in the front, wind facing part of the living barrier 3.44 cm is lost, in the middle part 0,48 is lost and in the back 5.77 is gained.
  • In the southern altiplano of Bolivia in 2016 18 live barriers consisting of 5343 plants were established in 4 communitie, among 6 families using 9 different species of native grasses and bushes in order to combat erosion and soil fertility loss in quinoa monocrops, in 2017 some local schools also joined in the research. The overall mortality has been 7%. Between 2013-2015, 2313 kilos of wild bush (4 species) and 64,000 kilos of native grass (9 species) seed has been collected. They have grown 38,758 seedlings of these species to plant living barriers. The barriers benefit from the use of organic fertilizers (increase productivity by 35%). Barriers should be established against the wind, with a variable width of 60 to 100 cm that allows the gradual retention of material carried by the winds. The 3 bush varieties have been developing at normal speeds and after 3 years each bush covers between 47-85 cm.
  • Non crop plants for soil health in quinoa monoculture: there is still not enough production of seed of native plants for distribution beyond research activities but field days have demonstrated these technologies to 75 key influencers including quinoa exporters, associations, donors and FAO. A Danish NGO has agreed to pay ecosystem services fees for the planting of these species.
  •  The best alternative for improved fallow in quinoa growing systems in the Southern altiplano of Bolivia is the establishment of native lupin “qila qilas” planted with time deferral to optimize development of the species. Wild lupin has been planted in 15 hectares among 6 families, some in association with quinoa plants with no ill effects to the cash crop but with highly variable mortality from 10-80%. The natural dissemination of the seed was confirmed in at least 3 plots, the mechanism is either through seeds dispered in previous season being broken out of dormancy by wind and weathering, or seeds that just fell in the current season encountered humid soil and germinated. 2 pest resistant varieties have been identified (Orinoca y Habascnacha). 85 kilos of these varieties have been multiplied in two years, which is slow going with this biennial flowering plant. Roughly 67,000 plants should be planted in one hectare. Plants produce approximately 6874 kg/ ha of green material every 16 months that can be incorporated into the soil.