Developing Agronomic Strategies to Optimize Production of Quinoa and Hulless Barley on No-till Farms in the Palouse Region of Idaho and Washington

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $223,119.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kevin Murphy
Washington State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, quinoa


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, fertilizers, no-till, plant breeding and genetics, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: dryland farming


    In an effort to increase crop diversification, no-till farmers in the Palouse region of North Idaho and Eastern Washington have expressed a need for increased knowledge and awareness of appropriate agronomic practices for both quinoa and hulless barley.  Each of these crops possesses the potential to add value to traditional no-till farming rotations in the Palouse through the marketing of their enhanced nutritional value and heart-healthy characteristics. Quinoa is recognized worldwide as an important gluten-free crop with high nutritional content and as a source of phytonutrients and fiber for human health.  At present, little is known about either the best management practices or the best available varieties for quinoa and hulless barley on no-till, dryland farms of the Palouse.

    From 2015 to 2017, we evaluated 10 varieties and/or breeding lines each of quinoa and hulless barley on two no-till farms in Washington and Idaho. While the barley trials had reliable results across all location years, quinoa only produced a harvestable yield in one year. This is likely due to a combination of high temperatures and very dry conditions. In addition, agronomic trials for each crop were conducted from 2016 to 2018 on two no-till farms. These focus on determining optimal nitrogen and seeding rates for each crop on no-till farms in the Palouse.   Agronomic traits measured included emergence, plant height,  lodging tolerance, days to maturity and seed yield. End-use quality traits of interest included seed protein content, seed size, test weight, and β-glucan content (for barley only).

    For the barley variety testing experiment, results showed a significant varietal difference in yield across years and locations (p < 0.05). In Almota for all three years, the top three high yielding varieties were Kardia (3,988 kg/ha), 10WA-118.13 (3,880 kg/ha), and 10WA-107.8 (3,763 kg/ha). Across all three years in Almota, the 10 varieties had a mean yield of 3,349 kg/ha. In Genesee, for all three years, the top three high yielding varieties were Kardia (5,887 kg/ha), 10WA-107.8 (5,689 kg/ha), and 10WA-118.13 (5,617 kg/ha) respectively, and the nursery mean was 4,898 kg/ha. When comparing varieties across years and locations, the top three high yielding varieties were Kardia, 10WA-118.13, and 10WA-107.8 with 4,937 kg/ha, 4,748 kg/ha, and 4,726 kg/ha. Across all three years and both locations, the 10 varieties yielded a total average of 4,124 kg/ha. Kardia is the only hulled entry in the variety trials, and was included as a hulled, high β-glucan control.

    Results from the agronomy trials showed a significant nitrogen rate x variety action for yield across all locations. Nitrogen did not have an impact on plant emergence and stand establishment, but did impact plant height and maturity. There was also a significant nitrogen rate x variety interaction for β-glucan content and protein content for each year. The barley variety Julie consistently had a higher β-glucan content than the variety Havener, though Havener had significantly higher grain yields each year. Though we are still waiting on our final β-glucan results, our preliminary results indicate that nitrogen rate did not have a significant effect on β-glucan content. Should these results bear out, farmers will not have the capacity to manage β-glucan content based on nitrogen application. However, neither will the effect of nitrogen rate on β-glucan content be a concern, and farmers can use nitrogen to manage yields and protein content. Differences in β-glucan content were found across years and locations, indicating that years and locations with higher precipitation resulted in higher β-glucan content in the grain.


    Project objectives:

    1. Identify specific varieties and/or breeding lines of quinoa and hulless barley that perform well on no-till farms in the Palouse.

    2. Determine the effect of seeding rate and nitrogen rate on agronomic traits and seed yield of quinoa and hulless barley;

    3. Develop outreach products and events in Idaho and Washington, as well as at regional and national conferences, to increase knowledge of and awareness about the agronomic and market capacity of quinoa and hulless barley.

    4. Publish a peer-reviewed paper in an impactful agriculture-based academic journal.

    5. Provide varietal information that will contribute to an officially released variety.


    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.