Project objectives from proposal:
The main test plot will be a level field of Pawling silt loam at 2000 feet which was planted to buckwheat last season. Before the ground is worked in April, soil samples will be taken to give a reading of the soil nutrients and the physical and biological properties of the soil. No soil amendments or irrigation will be applied so that we get a baseline reading of how well quinoa grows in our conditions. Since we farm organically, the ground will be prepared by the stale seedbed technique tilling under weeds as they emerge with particular attention to lambsquarter (Chenopodium album), a close relative of quinoa. The varieties tested will be obtained from a number of sources, including Peaceful Valley (CA), Bountiful Gardens (CA), and Wild Garden Seeds (OR).
We will run germination tests on each variety prior to planting and adjust planting rates if indicated. We hope to plant in the first week of May but the fields must be dry enough to work. Each variety will be planted by 2 different methods, broadcast with a cyclone seeder and drilled with a wheel planter to give us an idea which method gives better plant growth or more weed suppression. The seeding rate for the row planter will be 8 seeds per foot to allow thinning to a final 4 plants per foot (as recommended by Susan Ward of Colorado State University who was the technical advisor on the 2002 trial of quinoa in Maine). Seeding rate for the broadcast seeder will be set to achieve at least 130,000 plants/acre (Alternative Field Crop Manual). A split-plot design will be used with two replications.
Each variety will be planted in two adjoining plots, one broadcast and one drilled so that there will be 8 plots at one location in the field and then another set of 8 plots at another location in the field. This will help insure that the results can be judged accurately without being influenced by soil variation. The varieties will be randomly assigned to the plots. Plot size will be 7 x 40 feet to accommodate 6 rows spaced at 14’’ in the drilled plots. Harvesting the quinoa will be accomplished with a portable reaper/binder and thresher supplied by Elizabeth Dyck, of the Organic Growers’ Research and Information-Sharing Network (OGRIN), who will also make available a portable seed cleaner.
Our second plot will be an acre of silt loam on a higher portion of the farm. This field was also in buckwheat last season. After a soil sample is taken, the field will be prepared in an identical fashion without using any chemical weed control or soil amendments. This plot will be planted with a tractor-pulled seed drill to gain experience in the mechanics of farm-scale seed handling for quinoa. Only a single variety of seed will be planted. This plot will be harvested at the end of the season using a standard combine so that we can assess the ease with which quinoa could be integrated into a normal farming operation. All of the data we gain from small plots will be only of academic interest if we don’t try and see how well common farm equipment can handle this new crop.
To add to our knowledge of quinoa varieties, we will visit the OGRIN research farm to help Dr. Dyck evaluate quinoa accessions obtained from the National Plant Germplasm System that she will have established in a small-plot observational trial.