Quadrupling Quinoa Acres

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Responding to rapidly climbing demand from consumers and food companies, a Saskatoon-based company is quadrupling its contracted acres of quinoa production this spring.

Northern Quinoa owns the lone Canadian-developed variety of quinoa and is one of only a few buyers of the pseudocereal crop in the country. The company has been growing and producing a small number of acres of quinoa for over 20 years, but that’s changing as quinoa has become a popular mainstream food ingredient in the last few years.

As Colin Dutcheshen explains in the interview below, they contracted 5,200 acres in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2015. This year, they’re aiming for 20,000 acres. And there’s been talk about hitting the 100,000 acre mark in a few years.

“It’s about finding the right growers to come on board now,” he says.

To help producers understand how to grow quinoa, the company has two agronomists on staff and was looking to hire another two when we spoke at CropConnect in February.

Quinoa is a “finicky” crop that doesn’t compete well against weeds, Dutcheshen notes. Field options are also limited by rotation, as it can’t follow wheat to ensure it’s gluten free and it’s difficult to grow the year after canola and mustard due to similar seed sizes. They’ve had success growing quinoa on soybean residue, as well as following oats, fababean and forage plow-down.

Related: Working Quinoa into a Prairie Crop Rotation

While there’s some risk in not having crop insurance coverage, there’s also a reward when the crop comes through, as Dutcheshen says their producers averaged a yield of 850lbs/acre cleaned and a price of 60 cents/lb last year.

We talked about quinoa production in the west, how it’s marketed and more at CropConnect in Winnipeg:

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