Quinoa III

Lead Organization:

The Foundation for the Promotion and Investigation of Andean Products - PROINPA

Community of Practice:







Quinoa is a highly nutritious, gluten-free and protein-rich grain that was prized by the Incas as “the mother of all grains.” During the 20th century, it was neglected both by urban consumers and by crop researchers. In the last decade, gourmet and health consumers in the United States and Europe discovered it, and annual exports went from virtually nothing in 1990 to 2,000 metric tons a year in 1997, to over 26,100 tons/year today. The farm gate price per 45 kilos has risen from $20 to $100 to $293 in the same time span. While farmers’ incomes have improved from this growth, there have also been negative externalities related to unsustainable intensive cultivation, and the bulk of this nutritious food is exported instead of consumed domestically. If Bolivia does not find a way to sustainably produce quinoa, 20,000 Bolivian farmers are at risk of being excluded from the international quinoa market and returning to conditions of extreme poverty.

For more than a decade, the CCRP has been the principal funder of the quinoa research and technology development. It has funded PROINPA, the foremost quinoa research institution, since 2000.  PROINPA maintains a germplasm collection with over 3,200 quinoa accessions and has developed seven new quinoa varieties since 2000.  PROINPA’s quinoa research team has generated integrated pest management and organic crop management practices for the crop. This proposed third phase of funding will continue with quinoa crop improvement and management work, and will also focus more explicitly on making technology available to a large number of quinoa farmer- and trade organizations. This will require collaborating with key partners to make sure PROINPA’s research is relevant, timely, used by farmers and fully integrated into current and upstarting quinoa markets. The CCRP funds will also facilitate PROINPA to explore a new area of research into native plants that can be used in quinoa cropping systems to control erosion and maintain soil fertility.

Grant Aims:

  • A new model for agricultural research centers to engage science and technology with development in effective and efficient ways, which could be of use for other similar centers in the region and worldwide.
  • Nation-wide development outcomes via technological and social innovation.Quinoa varieties adapted to local climates and for intensive agriculture (early maturing and resistant to mildew) that will reach 10,000 hectares in the Central Altiplano through networks of actors.
  • Quinoa varieties that are valued by the industry and will increase the value of the quinoa chain by 10% through the diffusion through the supply networks of CABOLQUI.
  • Higher quinoa productivity.
  • New market opportunities for exporting companies.

Outputs and Outcomes:

  • 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. 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.
  • Market innovations: Leveraged project research on alternative uses for quinoa to help form an alliance with Lóreal to use saponins (a byproduct in quinoa processing) for cosmetics. In addition to using some of PROINPA’s research on saponins in Bolivia Lóreal 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (– 6°C) 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 sometimes by scratching the seeds before germinating. They have also been experimenting with several nursery techniques, direct planting, substrates, organic fertilizers (increase productivity by 35%), spacing and management techniques. 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. 18 live barriers consisting of 5343 plants have been planted to date in 4 communities, among 6 families using 9 different species. The overall mortality has been 7% . In terms of principles for constructing live barriers, farmers should be allow to adapt to their context, but the barriers should be perpendicular to the winds and slopes; and the species should be staggered between native grasses and bushes to replicate the natural ecosystem. There is still not enough production for distribution beyond research activities but field days have demonstrated these technologies to 75 key influencers including quinoa exporters, associations, donors and FAO. 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%. 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.
  • 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.
  • Mildew resistant varieties: 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: Experiments 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.
  • Pest Controls: In the Bolivian altiplano, insect larvae from the Noctuidae family complex (Copitarsia turbata, Feltia sp, Heliothis titicaquensis, Spodoptera sp) and quinoa moths from the Gelechiidae family (Eurysacca melanocampta and Eurysacca quinoae) cause serious damage and significant economic loss on quinoa production plots. To reduce the negative impact of these pests, 3 new eco insecticides (local Bt, Aphkiller and local VPN) were evaluated in quinoa plots using entomological nets (Fig 1). Plant panicles were isolated with nets, placing 5 insect larvae per plant. Preventive treatments were applied and larvae survival was evaluated two and seven days after application. Mortality rates were determined using the formula proposed by Henderson and Tilton. 7 days after application, the “local Bt” and “Aphkiller” resulted in mortality rates of 80% or higher, and VPN in a mortality rate of 76%. All three new products proved to be better than the current market product “Acaritop”.  However, farmers have reported that although Acaritop (a mixture of calcium sulfate and hot pepper) is not the best control for pests, it is an effective deterrent for rabbits (Lepus europaeus).
    Figure 1. The method of entomological nets used to evaluate efficiency of eco-pesticides.