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Quinoa - A Super Food

Quinoa workshop in PakistanQuinoa is a new crop with grains of superior nutritional profile as compared to common cereals. Its grain has higher protein and K, Ca, Mg, Mn than other cereals like wheat, rice and maize. Due to its nutritional importance for future food security, FAO declared 2013 as "The International Year of the Quinoa”.

This is also the reason why on the past 30th of August, the Department of Crop Physiology of the University of Agriculture of Faisalabad organised a stakeholder workshop on "Production and Marketing prospects or Quinoa in Pakistan". This event was also attended by YPARD Pakistan as we consider very relevant to raise the awareness among the youth on the relevance of quinoa harvesting for health as well as for economic reasons. 

This harvest seed has heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) and small amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid. It also acts as a natural appetite suppressant because it is effective in controlling appetite and helps to consume less food throughout the day. Therefore it is recommended for dieters due to its high protein and low calorie nutritional profile. Moreover, it is a gluten free diet.

Quinoa is a facultative halophytic crop plant tolerant to adverse conditions like salinity, drought, frost and diseases and insect pest. Besides, it is a rabi crop of same growing season as wheat in Pakistan, and its origin comes from harsh climatic and poor soils´ areas in South America. This nutritive crop can be grown on problem soils with less inputs, as it requires less crop care and produces grain of very high quality with international demand.

Why is Quinoa important?

  • Na free (ideal for BP, hypertension)
  • Gluten free (Celiac Disease, IBS)
  • High protein quality (Contain all essential amino acids)
  • High protein content (12-20% mass)
  • High vitamin content (A, B2, E)
  • High mineral content (Ca, Mg, Fe, Zn)
  • Health supportive Fats (Oleic acid)

Climate resilient

  • Salt tolerant: Tolerate sea level salinity (40 dS m-1)
  • Drought tolerant: Can grow on 25 % field capacity
  • Frost tolerant: tolerate -4 °C temperature

High price grain

  • 25-35 $/kg price in international market
  • Rs. 3000-3600/kg imported and Rs. 1000/kg local
  • 3000-8000 US$/Ton for bulk
  • Cost of production: less than Rs. 50/kg

Yield potential: = 80 monds/acre

Pakistan= 28-32 monds/acre

Major uses

Cooked as rice (palao, biryani, kheer, halwa) and porridge, its flour can be mixed with wheat flour originating tasty salads that are very popular worldwide.

Quinoa Production Technology

Climate and Soils requirements

Quinoa can be grown on variety of soils i.e sandy loam, loam, clay loam and also on salt affected soils. Particularly in India, quinoa response is very good on organic matter rich soils like the hilly agro ecological areas of south and central Punjab. 

Sowing time:

The optimum sowing time is November.

Soil Preparation:

2-3 Ploughing followed by planking. Well prepared soil is preferred.

Sowing method and geometry:

Quinoa shows equal response to ridge, bed or flat sowing by chopa method. However on salt affected soils ridge and bed sowings is preferred

Ridge sowing: 1.5 ft. apart ridges with plant to plant distance of 6 inches

Bed sowing: 2.5 ft. apart with 6 inches plant to plant distance on both sides of bed.

Flat sowing:  9 inches apart with 6 inches plant to plant distance

Sowing Density:

Optimum seed rate for quinoa is 2-3 kg/acre. Thinning should be done to maintain one plant/hill after 20 days of emergence. If plant population is dense then plants will be weak, on other hand if plants are too far then their maturity will be late, less plant population and increase in non-productive panicles.

Fertilizer:

Quinoa shows positive response by using nitrogenous and phosphorous fertilizers. The optimum rate is 75 kg N and 60 kg P ha-1 for loamy soils. Full dose of phosphorous and half dose of nitrogen should be applied at sowing while remaining half dose of nitrogen should be supplemented at milky stage.

Plant protection:

Weed infestation could cause severe damage during crop establishment stage up to bud formation. Hand Weeding is recommended as no selective herbicide is available for quinoa. No severe insect pest and disease infestation has been reported under local conditions.

Water Management:

Quinoa is drought tolerant crop. Except Rauni irrigation 2-3 irrigations are applied at critical stages i.e bud formation and flowering stage.

Harvesting:

This crop matures during the first week of April, when it changes its color, and it´s harvested during the dough stage (when the grain cannot be pressed by nail).

Quinoa changes its colour from green to brown, orange or red depending upon the variety. If needed, the harvested crop is tied in bundle and sundried for few days before its threshing.

Threshing:

This is usually done manually by beating the panicles with stick or by using a wheat thresher.   

Drying, Cleaning and Storage:

After the threshing, the seeds may be sun dried if needed and winnowed to remove broken seeds and plant material if any and packed in plastic or jute bags under dry ventilated conditions.

Picture credit: Production and Marketing prospects or Quinoa in Pakistan, by Shahzad Basra.