Introducing Organic Quinoa and Grain Cropping Systems in the Palouse

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $24,954.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. John Reganold
Washington State University

Information Products

Project Webpage (Website)


  • Agronomic: barley, hay, wheat, quinoa


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: crop rotation, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Interest in organic agriculture continues to grow due to its potential to remedy numerous environmental, human health, and economic issues attributed to conventional farming. However, organic production presents unique region- and crop-specific challenges. Growers need practical information on high-value organic cropping systems and other practices to design and manage organic production systems with increased resource-use efficiencies. Due to its high market value and diverse physiological traits, quinoa can be a highly competitive crop, and possibly an anchor crop, for growers to include in organic dryland rotations, especially in the Palouse region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. In March 2013, this organic research project was established on a 527-ha commercial grain farm, the Zakarison Partnership in the Palouse region of eastern Washington. This replicated study is being conducted on a 1.2-ha parcel with 8 rotation trials to measure the sustainability of various organic grain rotations with and without quinoa. Farmers are interested in growing organic quinoa and grains in the Palouse, but little scientific information is available to help them. The goal of this systems study is to improve the competitiveness and adoption by growers of organic quinoa and grains in a mainstream conventional grain-producing region of the Pacific Northwest. By conducting integrated on-farm crop rotation research and education, this project will fill critical knowledge gaps that exist regarding dryland organic crop rotations, including the introduction of quinoa. This study uses a transdisciplinary approach with farmers (Eric and Sheryl Zakarison) and interdisciplinary scientists managing the study site together. Project objectives include measuring the following agroecosystem components: crop yield and quality; insect pests and their natural enemies; weed populations and management; soil fertility and other properties; interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF); and economic performance. Objectives also include developing outreach and educational materials and venues for growers and stakeholders, including field days, webinars, social media posts, and academic presentations, factsheets, and journal publications. Additionally, a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) has been assembled to help manage and evaluate the project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This study takes a systems perspective to evaluate the effects of diversifying organic crop rotations with quinoa. Agroecological parameters that directly and indirectly affect the sustainability of organic cropping systems are being measured. By conducting integrated on-farm research and educational outreach, this project will fill critical knowledge gaps regarding dryland organic crop rotations, including the introduction of quinoa.

    Objective 1: Evaluate the agronomic performance of the cropping sequences of each treatment

    Sub-objective 1a: Quantify crop productivity and quality

    Sub-objective 1b: Determine abundance and diversity of insect pests and their natural enemies

    Sub-objective 1c: Evaluate weed populations and management strategies

    Objective 2: Assess soil chemical, physical, and biological properties under each treatment

    Sub-objective 2a: Track soil fertility and related properties throughout the crop sequence treatments

    Sub-objective 2b: Quantify colonization and carryover of AMF in crops/soil throughout the sequences

    Objective 3: Measure the economic performance of the different organic quinoa and grain cropping sequence treatments

    Objective 4: Disseminate project information to producers, consumers, extension agents, and students through field days, extension bulletins, webinars, and meetings

    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.