Bhutan can grow quinoa

Nearly two-thirds Bhutanese engage in subsistence agriculture to meet their household food security, but it’s still not enough to feed the whole country. Bhutan imports forty percent of its food requirements, which puts it in a particularly vulnerable position. If the land-locked, Himalayan country in South Asian is to achieve food security, it must improve its agrobiodiversity and enhance crop productions.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) initiative introduced a quinoa variety in 2015 to alleviate the risks to Bhutanese food security. FAO envisages that quinoa’s versatility could see it being adopted to several regions to improve the world’s food and nutrient security.

A new study outlines the findings of quinoa trials conducted at Yusipang and Lingmethang, Bhutan. The field trials tested up to ten quinoa varieties in 2016 and 2017.

The Yusipang trial site, at an altitude of 2,600 meters, represents a typical highland mountain farming environment. Cultivation in Yusipang is limited by cold temperature and frost, which starts in mid-October to April. In contrast, the Lingmethang site is a dry, subtropical region at an altitude of 640 metres. Limiting factors of crop production in Lingmethang includes high reliance on monsoon rains, steep terrain and high temperature.

The trials showed that quinoa could adapt to these agro-ecological regions to produce a good yield and grain quality. Maturation time for quinoa varieties was much longer at the colder Yusipang (100 to 197 days) in comparison to the more temperate Lingmethang (92 to 119 days). In general, quinoa varieties also produced more yield in Lingmethang. The Ivory 123 variety from India showed the best yield in both trial sites.

Quinoa grows in challenging conditions, under unpredictable rainfall patterns, drought, high and low temperatures. And quinoa’s versatility makes it an ideal crop to grow in mountain farming environment.

The trial suggests that quinoa has the potential to be adopted in the whole Himalayan region. Farmers in these regions mostly produce rice, maize and potatoes, and growing quinoa to the crop rotation system could bring much need food diversity in this region and contribute towards the region’s food security.

The results of the trial are published in BioRxiv preprint. Read the full paper: “First Adaptation of Quinoa in the Bhutanese Mountain Agriculture Systems”,

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