I'm trying to figure out how to go from a grassy field to growing quinoa and amaranth. I'm starting a few hundred quinoa seedlings in soil bricks, though this wouldn't be viable on a large scale. The seedlings are small and wimpy, and the seeds are slow to germinate. If I tried to just plant them out, they'd probably dry out (we're in the high desert, after all) and get outcompeted by weeds long before I could hoe.
Amaranth might be a little easier, but it is also a tiny seed, though one that germinates more strongly.
Mulching an acre with wood chips, etc. is out of the question. If I got great yields I could probably produce our desired amount of quinoa on half an acre, but I can't assume great yields.
Amaranth is a very high yielding plant. You can produce a shocking amount of it in an intensive setting, or even under just moderate conditions.
That being said, I hate to be frank, but you don't get something for nothing.
Often I read about amaranth and millet and quinoa as being great for growing dryland and in low fertility conditions. While that is true, they will produce only a fraction of their potential like this unless they're a land race.
You will likely need to mulch, water, and/or weed in some way (mulching counts, at least for a while) in order to get a decent yield per plant.
Also, one reason these aren't popular in home gardens is the labor of harvest, especially for quinoa. I know a woman who probably still has buckets of it because she doesn't want to deal with processing it. I don't blame her. Still, it is a nutritious and good food.
I recommend Hells Canyon Millet from Adaptive Seeds. They're swamped with orders right now but I would consider buying some for next year.
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
I wonder how its harvested in south america. They would be be the experts in small acreage quinoa production.
I saw a quinoa field trial last year done by a seed company here in eastern washington. They were finding threre's zillion strains of quinoa with different growth characteristics. They were searching for one that germinates well, is bushy enough to outcompete other plants, doesn't get too tall so it can be ran through a standard combine harvester, and matures before frost.
There should be a variety that works well with garden techniques.
I've wondered how the Andean peasants do it, and I can't find anything about it. The seeds seem about as slow germinating and delicate as carrots; imagine trying to get thousands of carrot seeds to germinate in clay soil with a dry climate, without seed drill or other implements.
Gilbert Fritz wrote:I've wondered how the Andean peasants do it, and I can't find anything about it. The seeds seem about as slow germinating and delicate as carrots; imagine trying to get thousands of carrot seeds to germinate in clay soil with a dry climate, without seed drill or other implements.
I don't know how the Andeans plant it, or how this translates to large-scale agriculture, but my red amaranth is a reliable self-seeder. New seedlings come up every spring in the same spot.
Weeds are just plants with enough surplus will to live to withstand normal levels of gardening!--Alexandra Petri
You may have already seen these, but it looks like they plant by hand - seedlings for quinoa, direct sowing for amaranth.
This one shows quinoa- they grow the seedlings over seeded under shade cloth, then pluck out and transplant.
This one is for amaranth- they have a cool tool to create deep planting holes you can see them use at the 5:05 minute mark
The other method for direct seeding quinoa in a dry location was more labor intensive- digging holes until they find moist soil and planting several seeds in each hole
It seems like in general, it’s a community activity in these countries. Maybe you could drum up some volunteers to help you do a mob planting?
Good luck with it, whatever you choose to do!