Evaluation of Grain Amaranth and Quinoa as Forage Crops to Improve the Sustainability and Profitability of Small Livestock Operations

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Keith Johnson
Purdue University
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Tamilee Nennich
Purdue University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed additives, manure management
  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, cover crops, crop rotation, double cropping, organic fertilizers, relay cropping, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, value added, whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: competition
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Alternative forage crops have the potential to increase the sustainability of livestock operations by providing farmers with new cropping options that supply an additional feed source for cattle diets and improve on-farm nutrient balances. The ultimate goal of this project is to change the behavior and practices of cattle farmers by showing them the benefits of planting quinoa and grain amaranth as part of their forage crop rotations. The effectiveness of adding grain amaranth and quinoa to forage production systems will be evaluated through agronomic plot studies, on-farm farmer interviews, and economic assessments. The role of grain amaranth and quinoa as double crops will be evaluated by performing field studies that determine proper planting and harvesting times, crop nutrient uptake and management implications of including these crops as part of an integrated forage production system. The agronomic field trial will consist of a randomized complete block design with four replicates and split-split plot treatments, where planting time of quinoa, phosphorus fertilizer rate, quinoa harvest date and grain amaranth planting date will be the treatment variables to be tested. Quinoa planting dates will consist of two planting times, one frost-seeded planting and one mid-April planting date. Grain amaranth plantings will follow after each quinoa crop is harvested. The information collected during this research study will be made available to producers through field days and extension publications. Economic assessments will be developed to allow farmers to evaluate the financial implications of planting and growing quinoa and amaranth as double crops on their livestock operations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Agronomic studies will look at the effects of planting times and fertilization rates on the growth and nutrient content of grain amaranth and quinoa to determine the most effective means of integrating grain amaranth and quinoa into Midwestern crop rotations. These agronomic studies will take place at the Purdue University Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE). The treatments will consist of three variables: quinoa planting date and method, quinoa maturity at harvest, and rate of phosphorus application. Quinoa planting date and method treatments will compare planting quinoa via frost-seeded application or drilling quinoa into the soil in mid-April. Quinoa harvest date treatments will focus on determining the appropriate maturity at which to harvest quinoa to maximize forage quality by minimizing neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and acid detergent fiber (ADF) in the plant while maximizing yields of protein and biomass. Phosphorus treatments will consist of one and two times the recommended rate of phosphorus to determine the ability of both quinoa and grain amaranth to sequester phosphorus. The nitrogen and potassium fertilization rates will remain the same across treatments. The study will be a randomized complete block design with a split-split-plot treatment structure and four replications. In summary, the treatments will be:
    • Quinoa planting date and method
    Quinoa planted by frost-seeding in early March
    Quinoa planted by a grain drill in mid-April
    • Phosphorus fertilization rate
    Standard phosphorus rate
    Two times the recommended phosphorus application rate
    • Quinoa harvest timing
    Early – 30 days after planting
    Mid – 45 to 60 days after planting
    Late – 60 to 80 days after planting

    Grain amaranth will be planted approximately one week after harvesting the quinoa at each of the designated harvest treatments. Harvest of grain amaranth for forage will occur at regular intervals prior to soft dough.


    The main output of this overall research project is the dissemination of the results to cattle farmers and forage growers by means of field days and extension publications.

    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.