Quinoa trial for Northeast upland farms

2012 Annual Report for FNE12-760

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $9,370.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
David McClelland
Maplebank Farm

Quinoa trial for Northeast upland farms


Our project was designed to study the feasibility of growing quinoa on upland NE United States farms by examining the growth patterns and yields of 4 named varieties planted by broadcast and row seeded methods and raised without irrigation, soil amendments or pesticides.

We tilled and planted our randomized replicate test plots and our two one acre field plots and an additional four observational plots. Our technical advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Dyck, also planted quinoa plots on her farm 150 miles to the east of us using the same varieties for purposes of comparison. Just before the harvest in September we held a joint field day on her farm where we walked through her plots and we gave an illustrated lecture presenting our observations up to that point. Attendees also got to sample numerous quinoa dishes made from commercially obtained quinoa grain. Analysis of the results of our trials and completion of an illustrated brochure for outreach purposes remain to be done. At this time our final report has not yet been posted on the OGRIN (Organic Growers Research and Information Network) website.


3 of the 4 varieties in the replicate test plots germinated and grew very well while the 4th (which we had been warned about by the supplier) germinated and grew unevenly. This same variety failed utterly in its one acre field plot while the other field plot struggled against the hot dry conditions this summer. 2 of the 4 observational plots failed to germinate. 1 of the replicate plots was damaged by a natural gas leak from a gas transmission line which runs under the farm. At the end of the summer when the crop matured we found that the seedheads in all the plots were empty. Very few seeds were recovered, certainly not enough to make an economically viable crop. This was the hottest summer in 127 years in nearby Buffalo and the lack of rainfall in June and July made this one of the most challenging growing seasons we have experienced.

New Ideas

We planted our quinoa in early May as recommended by Dr Susan Ward a quinoa expert from the Colorado State University. This may have caused the quinoa to come to the critical flowering stage at the hottest part of the summer. Although the quinoa grew beautifully and outcompeted many of the weeds it failed to set seed. Temperature in the 90s can damage the pollen causing the failure of seed formation. This process is also common in buckwheat. We plant our buckwheat on the 4th of July so that the critical flowering period occurs later in the summer as the days begin to cool. By planting plots of quinoa in succession from the second week of May through the second week of July we may be able to find which planting window will maximize seed production while still allowing the plants to fully mature before the killing frosts.

Farm Update

We continue to grow buckwheat, potatoes, garlic and vegetables. Six inches of snow in April as trees and shrubs were blooming meant that our entire fruit harvest consisted of exactly one apple. Acreage is unchanged from last year except for the test plots which replaced part of our buckwheat field although we were able to plant buckwheat in July on the acre sized quinoa plot which failed in May. The drought and heat stress severely curtailed production in the hottest part of the summer but timely rains saved our fall season.


Dr Elizabeth Dyck is our technical advisor and she patiently guided us through the intricacies of designing and laying out replicate plots and determining seeding rates and advising on planting methods. She also grew quinoa on her farm which grew less strongly but produced more seed. Professor Jessica Hutchison from Alfred State College helped with literature searching and microscopic examination of the quinoa plants. Local organic farmer Adrian Kavesh offered advice based on his experience planting quinoa and attempting to harvest it.


Dr. Elizabeth Dyck

Technical Advisor
Organic Growers' Research and Information-Sharing Network
1124 County Rd 38
Bainbridge, NY 13733
Office Phone: 6078956913