Quinoa Production in Central North Dakota

Final Report for FNC15-1011

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2015: $13,516.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2017
Grant Recipient: Hiddendale Farm
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Glendon Philbrick
Hiddendale Farm
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Project Information


Glendon Philbrick, farmer and educator, lives on the 700 acre  farm where he was raised, Hiddendale Farm, consisting of dairy cows, beef cows, small grains, and multiple gardens.  One pasture has been transitioned into cell grazing with another to be cell grazed this coming year.  Glendon has some cropland certified organic as of 2016.  Glendon has controlled weeds such as absinthe wormwood through cutting for over twenty years with success.  Quinoa has been successfully grown on Hiddendale farm.  Glendon raises a variety of vegetables for market.  Glendon is also a business instructor at Sitting Bull College and serves as one of the board of directors for the Bis-Man Food Co-op.

Steven Eid began farming in 2007.  The Eid’s Farm and Ranch consists of 50 acres virgin prairie and 30 acres cropland on upland clay loam in western North Dakota.  The farm does not use herbicides or pesticides, GMO seed, or non-natural fertilizer and has been USDA Certified Organic since 2011.  A series of NRCS minimal tillage, prescribed burns, and sheep among other natural pests are used to control weeds and crop contamination.  Eid’s Farm and Ranch produces winter rye, yellow – spotted green field pea, buckwheat, sunnhemp/lupin bundled forage, and direct marketed sheep sales.  His role in this grant has been as a farmer/researcher and participation in the education/demonstration.  Because of the small size of the farm he is able to research quinoa and make highly focused observations in field trials.


Glendon Philbrick has utilized organic practices in gardening for as long as he has gardened.  When growing field crops, livestock were integrated into the production.  Manure was always returned to the fields.  Soil cover was utilized in Glendon’s farming career.  Mono culture was always avoided.  Cover crops have been added to Glendon’s planting routine.    


Steven Eid has been certified organic since 2011.  Sustainable practices employed have included minimal tillage, prescribed burns, and sheep among other natural pests used to control weeds and crop contamination.  Intercropping, pollinator beneficial crops, and fall planted cover crops have also been utilized.

Project Objectives:
  1. Verifying Viable ND varieties (cherry vanilla and brightest brilliant rainbow)
  2. Developing a producer friendly planting process/harvesting
  3. Test harvest methods
  4. Develop a direct marketing model
  5. Educate the public - Production, health benefits, and use


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Steve Eid
  • Irene Graves


Materials and methods:
  1. Planting two varieties of quinoa seed 
  2. Adapting standard farming equipment for quinoa
  3. Evaluate companion/cover crops for weed control and fertilizer
  4. Swathin
  5. Straight cut harvesting
  6. Send seed samples to prospective buyers
  7. Appropriate packaging and labeling
  8. Expand use of social media and conducting surveys
  9. Farm tours
  10. Professional Conference presentations
  11. Local kitchen based classes
  12. Provide information to NDSU Extension for a fact sheet
  13. Distribute information through SARE Leadership in Local Foods Education Wagon, news media, The Germinator (Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society-NPSAS), newspapers, and social media.
Research results and discussion:

The process for choosing the seed was based on previous growing experience in the area.  The varieties chosen were cherry vanilla and brightest brilliant rainbow.  Research for seed choice was also based on recommendations from Wild Garden Seeds in Oregon, where the seed was purchased. 

The process for choosing equipment to plant quinoa was based on experience and advice from growers of plants of similar seed size, such as sugar beets.  Glendon Philbrick, with the assistance of Richard Philbrick, converted a John Deere 70 row corn planter to plant the small seed by adding custom seeding pates with depth bands.  Steve Eid modified a John Deere 8300 double disk drill by blocking the seed chutes and followed planting with a culti-packer.  Steve Eid used a companion legume crop in crop year 2016.  The companion crop was white lupins.  Glendon Philbrick utilized row cultivation for weed control. Glendon Philbrick planted winter rye to deal with kochia, bindweed, and other weeds by planting winter rye during the fall of 2015.  Glendon elected to mow the rye in May and cultivate the field twice to kill the rye.  Steve Eid did use post planting cultivation.  Steve used a Versatile 400 swather to swath the quinoa and combined the quinoa using a Gleaner F with air foil sieve.  The seeding rate was 1.25 pounds per acre based on recommendations from research in Missouri.  Steve Eid used a mixture of chicken grit and granular WinField Crop Mix 1 LS Micro nutrient.  These were added to the quinoa seed to produce a 20 pound per acre seeding rate. A killing frost was recommended for dry down before swathing.  Planting dates were between May 25 and June 1st. Harvest dates depended on maturity. 

The process for the marketing model was to communicate with potential buyers in central North Dakota.  Tours were going to be utilized for education as well as a presentation at a conference.   


Impact of Results/Outcomes

Soil samples taken before 2016 spring planting at Eid’s farm indicated lower K and higher P compared to 2015 field.  Nitrogen levels were slightly higher on the 2016 field at 75 to 85 pounds per acre.  Soil PH ranged from 7.3 to 7.6 in comparison to 7.7 in 2015.  Forage quantity, stem strength, and seed head size appear to have improved in comparison to 2015 growth.

On Eid’s farm, an unusual dry patch of ten days resulted in very little germination before July 3rd.  Heat from mid-July killed most of the immature lupin plants.  Lack of growth in 2016 created spotty growth. 

Mechanical harvest was not possible for 2016 because of the spotty growth.  Lack of growth in 2016 created spotty growth.  Hand harvest was instead utilized.  This consisted of cutting Quinoa plants two inches above soil, tying into bunches, and drying while hanging in large paper bags.  Once dry, any seeds were removed with a light gleaning action with a hand.  Removal of leaf and stem material will require a cleaning with a fanning mill.  A double sieve setup with a 1/18 x 1/8 top screen and 1/16 round bottom screen is required for seed cleaning.  Glendon Philbrick could clean most foreign material from quinoa with a Clipper Mill with custom made sieves, except for bindweed.

As noted, the planting date for 2016 was over one week later than 2015 planting.  An early planting of May 25th to June 1st appears to be a top limiting factor in good seed germination and plant stand.  Quinoa appears to have a sensitivity towards drought and heat during its early growth.  An early planting will help reduce this sensitivity.  Very early planting before May 20th is not recommended because of the potential loss from frost and cold soils reducing seed germination. 

Over the last two years, Eid’s farm has proven that Quinoa can be planted using a conventional press drill.  A completely level, firm, tilled and weed free seed bed is required for any quinoa germination.  Minimal till or no till drills in combination with finish tillage will produce very good germination and plant growth. Philbrick’s farm proved a row planter with depth bands will work well for planting quinoa provided the seed bed is adequately prepared.   

Mechanical harvest using conventional swather and combine has been achieved.  A special sieve using a #12 triangle compared to a standard airfoil sieve may help reduce seed dockage during harvest.  Typical minimum yield should be estimated at 25 to 148 pounds of seed per acre.  For a conventional combine, it is best to set the air at 450-500.  Cylinder speed should be higher than speed used with wheat.  The concave space was set at 1/8 – ¼ inch.  The spacing worked well.    

Forage samples collected in 2015 and 2016 show Quinoa forage as a very good amendment to a Dried Distiller Grains feedlot ration.  A price per ton should be equal to corn stover or cereal grain straw.  Average retail price for Organic Quinoa ranges from 4 to 9 dollars per pound.  Direct marketing yielded a top price of 11 dollars per pound in Bismarck.  The bitter saponin seed coating removal remains the leading barrier to direct marketing.  Quinoa cut for hay is preferred by cattle over alfalfa and brome grass hay.  The cattle cleaned up the bales to the point they ate the stalks.  The stalks are rather hard but the cattle ate them anyway. 

There is no conventional process for growing quinoa because it does not tolerate any pesticide.  Companion cropping was used, which is not typical in conventional farming.  The companion crop grew on Eid’s farm but died after an extended hot season.  Flowering was noticed in the companion crop which is a benefit to pollinating insects. 

Glendon Philbrick’s field germinated within seven days of planting for crop year 2016.  Glendon had lupin seed available for a companion crop but did not seed it when it appeared moisture would be inadequate.  Inadequate moisture after germination resulted in the quinoa drying up. The field was cultivated under after that point. 

A presentation was conducted in January 2016 in Aberdeen, SD at the NPSAS conference.  There was much interest in the processes for growing quinoa.  About thirty people attended the workshop, including grain buyers.  Glendon Philbrick hosted two cooking classes in the winter of 2016.  One was held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Turtle Lake, ND and the other in the Extension Kitchen at United Tribes Technical College.  Both classes were filmed.   The class held at Trinity Lutheran was aired on FARRMS Wednesday noon learning sessions held online. 

Glendon did not hold a farm tour because the crop dried up. 

Irene Graves had provided information for putting together a fact sheet for growing quinoa in central North Dakota. 

The results from the cooking classes and conference presentation were a surprise because one did know what to expect.  Attendees of the conference did ask whether or not quinoa can be grown in North Dakota. 

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

NPSAS was a venue for telling others about the project and activities by giving a presentation.  There were several verbal conversations at the 2016 and 2017 NPSAS conference.  Information was provided to everyone who attended the session and those who approached Glendon Philbrick and Steve Eid after the presentation.  Glendon also communicated the project and activities during the cooking classes and to his students at both United Tribes Technical College and Sitting Bull College.  Thirteen people attended the two cooking classes.  The recording was made available to members of FARRMS and to Glendon’s students.  Going forward, a technical data sheet will be produced and provided to the local extension agents to be shared with other extension agents.  


Project Outcomes


Potential Contributions

This grant has assisted two farmers in determining that quinoa can be grown if conditions are just right.  The right conditions are: little weed competition, adequate moisture early in the growing season, timely tillage and planting, and adequate seed bed preparation.  Philbrick’s farm did achieve adequate seed bed preparation. 

The experiment proved a converted corn planter and press drill can be used to seed quinoa.  The removal of the saponin coating is the barrier to marketing quinoa. Consumers expect quinoa to be saponin free.  Either producer has yet to locate any equipment in the state of North Dakota which can scarify quinoa to remove the bitter saponin coating.    

Philbrick farm is now certified organic and is integrating multi crops into the rotation to combat weeds.  Eid’s farm has seed for future growth if the decision is made to grow quinoa in the future.  Eid’s farm has established a four acre test plot to test other crops. 

The project overcame the planting and harvesting barrier. The marketing barrier was not overcome because of the saponin coating. 

The advantage of a project such as growing quinoa in central North Dakota is the crop diversification and ability to experiment with new crops.  The disadvantage is the limited access to markets with limited quantities less than a semi load and lack of equipment in the region for processing. 

To large organic producers in the area, an established market should be available.  Equipment should also be available for processing.  If a farmer is conventional, weeds will be an issue when growing quinoa.  Most quinoa sold is organic. It may prove difficult to find a market for conventional quinoa.     


Future Recommendations

Going forward, producers who wish to pursue growing quinoa in North Dakota should ensure there is equipment within a reasonable proximity to their farm for processing.  Equipment availability is a factor in marketing quinoa.  A larger organic producer would be in a more sustainable position to grow quinoa on a larger scale than a conventional farmer.  If equipment becomes available, this could be an opportunity for organic farmers in North Dakota.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.