prev | next
index for this volume | New Crops News | NewCROPS home page

New Crops News, Spring 1993, vol. 3 no. 1

Blue Corn and Quinoa: New Grain for the Southwest

Blue corn and quinoa have important roles both in history and in future specialty crop development. Blue corn continues to serve the Southwestern American Indian as a staple and as a religious symbol. Quinoa, the "mother grain" of the Incas, still provides a major food source of the Quechua Indians of Peru and Bolivia. During the rule of the Incas, it is reported that the Inca would plant the first seed each season with a golden spade.

Today, these two crops represent a developing new crops industry in the U.S., says Duane L. Johnson, Department of Agronomy, Colorado State University. The trials and tribulations of an emerging industry can be seen in both crops. Quinoa, a crop adapted to cool season conditions, began its recent development in 1983. A mass educational effort was made to develop research applicable to U.S. farm conditions, train extension personnel, train producers, develop markets, and educate consumers. Current quinoa consumption in the U.S. is approximately 3 million pounds per year. Prices to producers and consumers range from $0.50 to $1.25 and $2.50 to $4.50 per pound respectively. Yields on commercial acres average 1,000 pounds/acre. New markets in industrial products and interest by major cereal companies should help expand this market.

Blue corn has been an inherent part of Southwestern agriculture since prehistory. Adaptation by conventional producers has required some modification of conventional farm practices, such as reduction of fertility and water application. Marketing has been developed by private interests and currently is 15 to 20 million pounds per year. Education, as expected, of both consumers and producers has been the greatest hurdle. Blue corn prices to producers and consumers range from $8 to $10 per bushel and $3.50 to $5.00 per pound respectively. Producers report yields of 50 to 100 bushels per acre.