Cultivars of Quinoa – Chile

After having presented the main quinoa varieties native to Peru and Bolivia, which are the two main producers of this pseudo-cereal, it is time to talk about what, in my opinion, is the country that offers the varieties with the greatest potential for adaptation to the Mediterranean area. You may wonder why I insist so much on Chile. Actually it is a personal conviction, born from field visits, analyses and experimental studies carried out in Italy and Spain with varieties from Peru and Bolivia. In most cases (both in dry land and in irrigated land) the same problems occurred: excellent development of the plant (excessive in many cases), excellent development of the panniculus, excellent flowering (except for sporadic cases) and almost no seed at all! Having heard various opinions, including those of agronomists and researchers (both European and South American), I understood that the cause is to be found in the photoperiodism, so I decided to deepen my research to identify cultivars capable of limiting this problem. The answers obtained have a decidedly bittersweet taste.

As the main criterion of selection, I used the geographical area, and more precisely the latitude, identifying those regions located at a latitude almost corresponding to that of the Mediterranean area (obviously considering the opposite hemispheres). But this is not the only factor that pushed me to Chile: both the altitude (it is the only country where the quinoa ecotype is grown at sea level) and the climate, which in some areas is particularly similar to that of the Mediterranean area, are aspects that should certainly not be underestimated. Furthermore, the fact that most of these varieties have adapted to these areas (although with long processes), makes me even more confident about the real chances of success in Europe as well.

In Chile the cultivation of Quinoa is not as developed as in Peru and Bolivia. In many areas of central and southern Chile (that in my opinion are the most promising areas) it has been preserved only as a family crop, cultivated by Mapuche women in vegetable gardens or on small plots. This makes it difficult to give detailed and reliable data on the characteristics of each variety, so I prefer to make a general statement without presenting uncertain numbers and quantitative data. The name used by the Mapuche population to indicate Quinoa is “Dawe” (which means “plant whose qualities allow us to nourish and improve people’s health“) and many of the varieties present in this area are the result of meticulous conservation of the seeds from father to son, almost an inheritance.

The varieties grown in these regions are the result of improvements of the northern plateau varieties (arrived in these areas 800/1000 years ago), which, due to the initial difficulties in adapting to milder climates and higher humidity, have undergone over time processes of adaptation and selection also through crossings with local wild varieties. We can therefore summarise by saying that two ecotypes of Quinoa are grown in Chile, the one grown in the north (plateau) and the one grown in the centre and the south. To date, no “Mapuche” variety has been certified and, in general, they have a high genetic variability. However, selection and improvement processes are underway on some varieties from which lines have been obtained that are still in the experimental phase.
Research has been underway in Italy for some years on a Chilean variety, the Regalona-B, ​​which presently is the only certified variety and, after a few years of testing, it seems that the first positive signs have being obtained.

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