The grain is known globally for its high nutrition content

Agriculture: To improve the country’s nutritional status, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) yesterday introduced two varieties of Quinoa from Peru for evaluation and adaptation in Bhutan.

The Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd) is a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a species of the goosefoot genus and it is native to the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.

DoA initiated the research and development work on quinoa considering its high nutritional quality, genetic variability and versatility to adapt to adverse climate and soil conditions.

Chief agriculture officer, Chimmi Rinzin said nutrition is becoming a serious concern and the ministry is introducing the crop to augment nutrition in the country.

An additional 10 more varieties will also be tested in the country. “We can get nutrition by eating vegetables but our eating habits are towards eating more cereals, therefore the introduction of the crop will help address the long term nutrition issues,” Chimmi Rinzin said.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has compared the nutritional quality of the crop to that of dried whole milk. The protein quality and quantity in quinoa seed is often superior to those of more common cereal grains.

Although the crop is found across the country, it is of weed species and is often used as pig feed. It grows in the wild and their tender leaves are consumed as vegetables. However, it cannot be harvested for grains like the imported variety.

Chimmi Rinzin said currently the crop is at production trial at Phobjekha, Yusipang, Khangma and Jakar. Starting next month, a production trial will be conducted at mid and low altitudes and in summer, the crop will be tried at high altitude areas of Merak, Sakten, Gasa, Laya and Lingshi.

“We want to determine the adaptation of the crop under different agro-ecological zones in the country,” said Chimmi Rinzin. “Within another year, seeds will be distributed to farmers for cultivation.”

He said the crop is well suited in Bhutan because it is drought tolerant and can be cultivated under low moisture content and does not require irrigation water like paddy. It is an easy crop to cultivate with low management and input required compared to paddy and potato, he said.

The average production in Bhutan is expected to be around 500 to 600 kgs an acre and globally the price of processed quinoa seed ranges from USD 4 to 6 a kg.

RNR RDC Yusipang organised a short field day on Quinoa yesterday at Yusipang to create awareness on the cereal that is gaining popularity worldwide because of its high nutritional status.

Dechen Tshomo