Looking for participating growers for a Going to Seed Quinoa Grex

I’ve volunteered to steward a quinoa grex for Going to Seed, and am posting here to gauge interest. How many folks are growing quinoa this year, and who would be interested in donating seeds for the grex?

Are there any particular traits or varieties that you think should be incorporated into a quinoa grex, or good sources for unusual material that you’d like to recommend? What would you all be looking for in such a grex?

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Wild Garden Seed maintains a reasonable number of quinoa varieties. They sell mixes from time to time too. They have several mixes at the moment.

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We’re growing quinoa and would happily donate seed if we get a crop. Much of it will be growing side-by-side wild chenopodia in a rewilding effort.

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@H.B That sounds cool! I’d probably indicate in the description of a grex that crosses with wild chenopods may have occurred.

@RayS I’ve bought some of my quinoa from them, and will check their catalog to see if there’s anything else I should get.

Historically, Quinoa has done poorly for me. I’d like to try again, since lambsquarters grows so well for me.

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Similar to Joseph I plant some every year and the lambsquarters does well but I don’t get much of a crop. I’ll put some in this year again to see if I can get some contributions.

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I just planted my quinoa grow-out for this year. Since this is the first year of my personal landrace, I’m focusing on bulking up seed, generating some crosses, and evaluating different varieties. In rows across a bed, I planted (from west to east): Biobio, Cherry Vanilla, Incred White, Ivory, Peppermint, and White Spike.

All but Biobio, which was from the old Bountiful Gardens catalog, were from Wild Garden Seed.

I’d be particularly interested in receiving seeds from anyone who typically struggles with the crop! Those seeds might have valuable genetics for extending quinoa’s range.

I would be interested. I have only grown it one year. I haven’t again because I am not good at washing it to allow for food. I do like to eat it, it’s easy to grow, so I should do it every year.

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I would love to be involved. Currently only huauzontle has done well for me- most quinoa strains are adapted to higher latitudes, but I know it grows at the same latitude as me in Peru (just have no idea how to track down those genetics). Also interested in crossing with wild chenopodium species. I was planning to build up to doing some hand crossing in the future, maybe even some wider crosses with shrubby/perennial members of the family.

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Hello Matt, That’s great! I have heard it is very difficult to wash for eating; like you, I’ve grown small plots of it but haven’t eaten any yet. I have heard that using a blender on a slow setting makes washing fairly easy.

@ShaneS Are you able to import/export quinoa from Australia? It would be really great to have your participation if you could!

Hi Malcolm

Chenopodium quinoa is one of the few crops that is permitted for import/export without any permits, so that is one reason I am very keen to tap into wider genetics and do serious breeding with it. I had a contact with an industry backed quinoa variety trial in the north west seasonally arid tropics but never heard back from them. The range of potential locations the crop can grow is vast, but each strain has a limited range of latitudes and planting times to make sure daylength works. That can be an advantage though if you want to plant off season and end up with tiny plants that can be grown rapidly in the greenhouse for hand pollination- one way to generate two or three generations per year and speed everything up.

That’s great! I look forward to collaborating with you on it. I planted six different strains of quinoa in a garden bed this year. Two of them failed to germinate, and two of them germinated very weakly; the other two are growing well, though slowly. That seems to be usual here; they grow slowly until they suddenly push up a big seed stalk.

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One possible advantage of regular collaboration across the planet- we could double the number of generations per year.
Working together to master hand crossing together, pool genetic diversity and create a whole bunch of crazy grex genetics to share sounds like an amazin opportunity

Are there any plans on incorporating crossing between domestic strains (quinoa/huauzontle etc) with wild ancestors ? (such a long list of potential Chenopods to try). Given the work that goes into getting those wide hybrids started it seems like the pay off would be much greater if the initial hybrid populations are dispersed so people can adapt them to different local conditions.

Also- I assume any future announcements about the group will happen here? Happy to move it to an email list at some point. Any thoughts on what a number of dedicated breeders would represent a critical mass to start making concrete moves? What seed banks do you guys have to tap into? From what I have read there is some pretty amazing diversity in south America which hasn’t filtered into circulation elsewhere.

I would very gladly participate if it is possible to exchange quinoa seeds across atlantic ocean, since I am in France. Just discovered it was possible across pacific ocean, so why not.
It is only my second year of growing quinoa. I loved it. The beauty and the productivity of this plant amazes me. I grew one strain last year, sowed 5 this year. two failed germinating two of the others are already growing small flower stacks… the last one is still in the greenhouse because I could not find last year’s paquet until mid-may. this last one is behaving fine.

I will grow some of the plants in a production greenhouse in order to protect a crop in case of end summer rains. These have a few wild lambsquarters as close neighbours and I instructed the team not to weed them.

As far as desirable traits are concerned; I would say resistance to heat waves, and capacity to hold a little rain at the end of the summer, if ever.

Picture of the early flowering ones, (the basket is included in the picture to provide a scale. do you think it is normal, thes early flowers ?

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@ShaneS I’ll keep making updates here, though we could also communicate by email of that worked well for somebody. I like the idea of two generations a year! I know @H.B is interested in crossing with wild relatives, though I think he was planning on a fairly low-key method of just growing them side by side.

As far as genetic resources, I think that I could submit requests to the USDA GRIN through Going to Seed. They have around 500 quinoa accessions. They probably wouldn’t be pleased if I immediately shipped seeds that I received out of the country, but we could grow them out here and then share them. If you or anyone else finds particular accessions that you are interested in, let me know. Also, Going to Seed is willing to reimburse costs for buying commercially available seed; there is a good number of varieties for sale here in the USA.

At this point, it would probably have to wait until the next northern hemisphere spring, 2024, and we could possibly share seed that we grow out with southern hemisphere growers in fall 2024. (Due to the fact that it is getting late for quinoa planting across most of the northern hemisphere.)

@isabelle I’ll try to look into whether we could trade seeds across the Atlantic. As far as the early flowering, in my admittedly limited experience that seems to be a stress response. I’ve seen it happen when quinoa seedlings were left in a flat too long, and also when they were planted in an unirrigated area that was full of aggressive grass, and the rain didn’t come. I think it is analogous to bolting in brassicas or lettuce.

OK that was my guess… I was traveling and it had to wait the last batch will be better. thanks.
that would be great if you could check the possibility of a transatlantic exchange ! thanks also !

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Thanks for putting me onto the USDA GRIN seed bank. I will go over it with a fine tooth comb to pick out anything that looks extra promising. We used to have an equivalent government run seed bank here (I managed to get the parent strains of my landraced maize variety) but it was sold off to a private company.

I am very happy to be the point-man on hand crossing chenopodiums. It seems like a lot of fiddly work, but you only need a pinch of reliably crossed seeds to start a whole new grex population. Mastering the technique of getting plants to bolt in pots in a greenhouse makes the process even easier. My greenhouses are currently close to empty after a year of neglect and on track to be cleaned out, and upgraded with rat proof cages for precious plants.

Generating that deep diversity in the early stages, then distributing it far and wide for local selection, is my main priority for being involved in a project like this.

This paper on quinoa hand crossing technique might be of interest too-
A_Crossing_Method_for_Quinoa.pdf (8.0 MB)

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Let me know if any of the accessions would be particularly useful for your latitude/climate. I’ve searched the database before for other crops, and sometimes there isn’t much info—other times there can be quite a bit.

And if you’d like to work on crossing with wild chenopods, that would be great! What wild species do you have there? One potential issue might be introducing new weeds, which has both legal and ecological implications. I suppose it might be best to stick with species that are already present in the USA and Australia, if such species exist. (I noticed that Chenopodium berlandieri is a prohibited pest in Western Australia, for instance.) Do you have any thoughts on that?

And thanks for the paper!

I will trawl the database for promising looking accessions. Just wish there was more info on each one. I am guessing the ideal starting point would be to maximise the diversity so that every grower participating in the project had a decent chance of success under their local conditions.

I just refamiliarised myself with the genetics of Chenopodiums. Quinoa is a tetraploid (AABB), originally created long ago by two diploid species (AA and BB) hybridising then doubling their chromosome count. C. berlandieri is a sister tetraploid to quinoa, so it can hybridise with it directly. Some breeders are working on this already to introduce mildew resistance so they crop can grow in more humid climates. It might be worth reaching out to these people to see if we can access some of their early hybrids and save ourselves a bunch of time. I am happy to give this a go- I seem to have a knack for wheedling my way into strangers good graces.

Most wild species are diploids on either side of the family tree, so if they were crossed with quinoa you would get a sterile triploid as an F1. It might be possible to get this to double its chromosome count again to get an AAAABB or AABBBB hexaploid (which might end up creating a strain with bigger plants and seeds). This can be as simple as creating as many triploids as possible then hunting for the few viable seeds they produce (or speeding things up with oryzalin).

The other interesting possibility is to pick a range of AA and BB wild species and replicate the events that created quinoa, but this time making something new. This kind of long shot project seems like the most fun to me. I also like the idea of hybridising two A or B types together and staying at the diploid level. I remember seeing a paper analysing Chenopodium species in a family tree to show which were A or B but I can’t find it at the moment.

If either outcome of a species cross is interesting then maybe it doesnt matter if they are A or B types. Wide crossing works best when you throw every other pollen type at an emasculated female plant. If any interesting crosses arise you can usually figure out the pollen parent in retrospect. This approach is much. better than obsessively labelling every cross and ending with mostly failed crosses.

It is also worth highlighting C. pallidicaule, an andean crop called Kaniwa. This is a diploid species and one of the ancestors of quinoa. It is also available in the GRINS database and could be an important part of the program.

The hand crossing techniques outlined in the paper seem very manageable to me. I love doing fiddly hand crosses all day long until my eyes blur. In the greenhouse I should be able to grow almost any time of the year in my almost frost free climate, though can’t control photoperiods with my current set up. Summer might be too humid some years for highland quinoa strains.

Australia has a biosecurity import data base of allowed chenopodium species. There are no herbarium records of C. berlandieri in Australia and it is not on the allowed list, so importing seed could be difficult. I do have one strain of huauzontle, which is a domesticated strain of berlandieri, which grows much better for me than the temperate quinoa strains I have tried previously. C. giganteum appeals to me since taller crops handle weed pressure better once established. It is already in circulation among veggie growers here. I also have wild C. album (though ploidy varies wildly in this species). C. album is permitted for import so I could try other strains. I can access a few two native shrubby species. C. ambrosioides I have also grown, but don’t think it is worth including since it is stinky and toxic. C. glaucum/opulifolium also look useful. C. murale is strictly speaking in Chenopodiastrum.

One final thought- The chromosome number is the same for Chenopodium and Atriplex. Atriplex is still a minor leaf vegetable (A. hortensis/orach), and A. patula was undergoing domestication as a protocereal in Eurasia before other crops replaced it. I can import both seed from species without permit. If I am already hand crossing then I may as well throw this long shot into the mix. Chenopodiastrum also has the same chromosome number.

All in all there is a lot of potential here and I am thrilled to have found potential collaborators for this kind of work.

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Awesome to hear about the excitement and possibilities.

None of the quinoa I broadcast in with the lambsquarters has come up. We planted a bunch last year (again by broadcast) and didn’t get a crop. It germinated well but quinoa seems really delicate to me when young. It’s got to power down into the clay and tolerate that drainage situation (in addition to voles and other varmints). It hasn’t yet been up to the task for us - - the quinoa germinates and dies. It seemed to me like it was often succumbing after rain.

Main goal this year for quinoa is just to get some amount of locally grown seed. If I can preserve a large amount of the diversity I’m putting in or cross with wild chenopods that’s even better.

This year I got some quinoas from EFN (that haven’t come up) and adaptive (that have). Adaptive has a nice selection and offers larger amounts. Though I think there was a mistake with my order and I ended up with mislabeled smaller sizes