Ord Valley quinoa trials declared a success

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Cally DupeThe Kimberley Echo
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Quinoa harvests in the Ord Valley have been deemed a success, placing the future crop in the minds of growers throughout the region.

The Department of Agriculture has been testing the South American plant in Kununurra for the past two years at the department's research station on Weaber Plains Road.

In April 2012, University of Western Australia researcher Dr Jon Clements approached the department to plant a trial of the seed crop, also being tested in the State's Wheatbelt.

Research station manager Mark Warmington, who ran the trials in the Ord Valley, said he was keen to see if the crop would grow in the region's clay soil and hot climate.

"Growers here are starting to look at it as a potential crop, which is why it was so important to see if it would grow here," he said.

"The heat is a big factor, but we were pleased to find the seed could withstand it.

"We discovered the best planting time is May."

The seeds were first planted on May 22 last year, and, according to Mr Warmington, grew extremely well.

"From the 30 seeds planted we were able to harvest 230 grams of seed," he said.

That seed was planted for a larger trial in 2013, to get a better understanding of water requirements, fertiliser inputs and potential yield.

It produced more than 71kg of edible seed this year.

Germination tests have revealed more than 90 per cent viability.

In 2012, germination was noted just three days after planting, while the first seed heads appeared in early August.

Mr Warmington said of the four varieties to be harvested, two were looking particularly promising in the Ord Valley.

"The white seeds are looking to be the best for this area, but the darker variety also shows potential," he said.

"The next step for us is finding a market to sell the seed … we know that the price is good for quinoa."

The majority of quinoa sold in Australia is imported from Bolivia and Peru, but work is being carried out to test its suitability in both the Ord Valley and the WA Wheatbelt.

Wheatbelt farmers Ashley Wiese, Megan Gooding and agronomist Garren Knell have been trialling the pseudo-grain for four years through their company Australian Grown Superfoods.

The two farmers and agronomist grew 15ha of the South American super food at Mr Wiese's Highbury farm, 5ha at Mrs Gooding's Narrogin property and a trial plot at Lake Grace.

Their first commercial quinoa crop was harvested last year.

Mr Wiese said the trio was rapt.

"We were reluctant to take the next step, both marketing and processing, until we knew we could really grow it, but this year has given us the confidence to know that it should be able to be grown quite successfully," he said.

"We've had a lot of failures in the past with wrong varieties and wrong agronomic techniques, but we feel we've made leaps and bounds this year."

Mr Warmington said 50kg of the Ord crop would be distributed to Wheatbelt farmers, through Dr Clements, for next year.

"The seed is very hard to get, so if we can give them some of our harvest we can continue to trial it around the State," Mr Warmington said.

In another tick of approval, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has officially declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.

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