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how would quinoa/amaranth be grown on any meaningful scale with hand tools?

 
pollinator
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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.

Any thoughts?

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.
 
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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.
 
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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.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Thanks for the responses!

My biggest concern is just how I would actually plant it into a fairly rough field; how would I get tens of thousands of little seeds covered enough and not too much?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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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.
 
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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.
 
James Landreth
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Amaranth germinates readily and in a week or so for me if it's kept wet. You might scatter sow and rake it lightly.  Birds may be an issue. I do mine as indoor starts then transplant
 
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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.
https://youtu.be/hXtlRB6K364

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
https://youtu.be/c5DntsfWozo

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
https://youtu.be/SdtF18BWK2M

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!
 
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Great project! I was thinking about how I might supplement feeding ducks and Amaranth came to mind.

Check out Native Seed SEARCH https://www.nativeseeds.org/ for seed varieties and advice. They are based in Tuscon.

I use to live in the Sonoran Desert and got many of my seeds from them, a wonderful resource that supports and teaches Native Peoples plant wisdom.

I find their knowledge and seed varieties good for many "challenging conditions" not just the desert. Thanks for the post and keep us, your fellow-alt-living-travelers on Permies updated!
gift
 
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