Quinoa is an innovative crop and an emerging crop of Pakistan. Its scientific name is Chenopodium quinoa.
It belongs to family amaranthaceae sub family chenopodiaceae. Its crop height is about 1-2 meter. It has been introduced in Pakistan in 2008 with the help of USDA. It is originated in the Andean region of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Chile and was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000, years ago, for human consumption. The crop yield in Andean region is 3 t/ha to 5 t/h .The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nation declared 2013 to be the international year of quinoa. It is considered as a super food due to its vital nutrional profile. If we look at its nutritional profile it contains 64% carbohydrate and 13% water.
It also contains high amount of protein which is almost 17 to 21 percent as compare to rice and wheat which contain 3% and 13%, respectively. It is believed that this protein is superior in quality as compare to soybean, wheat and barley. It contains soluble fibers that is why it is a detoxifying agent and eliminate wastes from the body.
It has also a good combination of amino acids like lysine and sulphur and also have optimum level of omega 3 omega 6 and omega 9. In addition, it also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus manganese and vitamin A and E are all requirement of human being.
The most important feature of this crop is that it is a halophyte and easily grow in saline soil. As we know 1/3rd of our land is salt affected so it can be very important for Pakistan. It is also drought tolerant and easily survives under high temperature. It has low input/nutrient requirement for full crop and only need 3 to 4 irrigation.
It is climate resilient crop. It has potential to grow under marginal land and has ability to grow under low rain fall areas, it can also grow in high altitude areas of Pakistan like Hunza valley and Chillas. It is more economical to grow due to its high demand in developed countries.
Luckily this crop acclimatizes to conditions of Pakistan and its growing season is oct-march. Since its introduction, its production is increasing day by day. Plant can grow at relative humidity from 44 to 88 percent and soil ph ranges from 6 to 8.5.It can tolerate temperature ranges from -4 to 380C.The optimum temperature for it is 12 to 20c. Initially, it was grown in areas of Faisalabad, Chakwal and Sheikupura, Haripur, and Hazara, at that time its 1kg seed price was 3000 rupees. Now more than 100 acres is under cultivation of this crop and recently price of 1kg seed is 600 rupees.
Its production is 2.5 ton per hectare and more than 8 ton of biological mass used as a fodder, biofuel and vegetable. Now Pakistan is exporting its seed. From a single panicle, we can get 200 grams of seed so it could become a highly valuable crop in Pakistan as it generates more profit than any other cash crop.
It has over 120 color verities, but red, white and black are more common. Apart from colour all verities are very similar and can be used in the same recipes. Nutritional differences are miniscule.
It has many health benefits. Its grain can be grounded to make floor. Grains used for making food, biscuit, bread, sauces, pasta, cakes and juices. In European countries, it is also popped just like popcorn. Saponins present in plant is used for making detergent, shampoo, beer, toothpaste pesticides and antibiotics.it can also be used in making different kinds of salads.it can also be used in local sweet dishes like halva and kheer as a substitute of wheat and rice.
It is also called as pseudo cereal because it is used as alternate of cereal and replace wheat as well as rice. It is also gluten free so can be a substitute of wheat. It is also useful during pregnancy. Due to its more industrial status it is need of the hour to increase its cultivation for economic stability of country.
As we know world population is increasing day by day. So, to meet the demands of increasing population we would have to develop better genotypes. For this purpose, plant breeders would have to pay it under consideration to develop better genotypes having high yield to cope with food security.
Recently genome of quinoa was translated in 2017 by researcher in Saudi Arabia. So it’s a massive breakthrough for contemporary researchers to know more about it using new techniques and information. Initial yield trials have already been started at University Agriculture Faisalabad and barani institute Chakwal for its acclimatization.
I suggest it must be paid more attention by our scientist so that we can overcome food shortage and earn foreign exchange by its export. Government should start project for its awareness by utilizing extension department. It must be added in our diet because it is highly nutritive and useful food.