Quinoa trials begin for Australia’s entry into quinoa global stakes

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 29th July 2015
Image by Maurice Chédel via Wikicommons
Image by Maurice Chédel via Wikicommons

A three year national trial of the health food quinoa has commenced across five Australian states.

The grain has gained popularity over the past decade, prompting increase in production in South America, Europe and Asia.

The project, funded by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, is co-funded and led by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), with contributions from participating States.

Field trials will be planted in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.

Project leader Richard Snowball said research would evaluate the agronomy and suitability of growing quinoa.

“Early indications suggest quinoa could be a highly profitable crop, given it’s not a very difficult crop to grow, particularly when grown under irrigation in warmer environments,” Mr Snowball said.

“In southern climates quinoa could be an ideal crop for wheat, canola and barley growers, as the growing process is similar. By adding quinoa to the mix of crops, it could take the pressure off rotations that are at risk of disease and weeds.”

Amino acid balance study to be included in research

Scientists plan to work closely with industry during the project, including testing seed processing techniques, and also test the amino acid balance within the protein, for which quinoa is highly regarded.

The project will build on DAFWA research on quinoa at its Kununurra Research Facility, over the past three years.

Facility manager Mark Warmington said results showed much promise for the future of quinoa production in Australia.

“Early trials under irrigation have revealed a typical crop produces a yield of between 2-3 tonnes per hectare,” Mr Warmington said.

“When you factor that in to the current price of quinoa, of between $1400-4000/tonne or more and the high consumer demand, the future for the crop and growers’ profitability looks bright.”

Quinoa crops began in Tassie

Quinoa had its start in Australia eight years ago when a couple, Lauran and Henriette Damen, were the first to grow the crop on an organic farm in Kindred, Northern Tasmania.

“We wanted to supply health food shops,” Mr Damen said. “It was hardly known when we started and we had to convince people to give it a try.”

Fast forward just a few years and quinoa had become very popular with consumers.

Mr Damen says that Tasmania is a good place to grow quinoa.

“The climate in Tasmania suits growing quinoa, well as the crop doesn’t like it too hot. It’s from a different family than most traditional grains and there are a wide variety of things that can affect it.”

Despite having its start in Tasmania, quinoa farming has since spread over into Western Australia with growers finding conditions there good as well.

The ABC reported in December 2014 that WA farmers had grown a large commercial-scale harvest of quinoa. As of December 2014 there were 1, 150 hectares of quinoa crops planted in WA.

Director of the company, Australian Quinoa, Steve Timms told the ABC at the time that just over 100, 000  tonnes of quinoa are grown globally each year and that Australian farmers hope to match that in two to five years.

He also hoped that up to 200 farmers across NSW, Victoria and South Australia would soon be growing quinoa.