Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Energy News  

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Miracle crop: Can quinoa help feed the world?
By Marlowe HOOD
Paris (AFP) Feb 8, 2017

Scientists on Wednesday unveiled the near-complete genome of quinoa, a grain cultivated centuries ago by Incas in the Andes that scientists say could help feed a hungry world.

Best known outside its native region to health food fans in North America and Europe, quinoa is highly nutritious, gluten-free, and packed with essential amino acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals, experts say.

It also scores lower than other crops on the glycaemic index, a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels -- a major concern for diabetics.

The grain thrives at any altitude up to 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) above sea level, in conditions that would leave most food plants struggling.

"Quinoa is incredibly resilient, and can grow in poor or salty soils," said Mark Tester, a professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and leader of the consortium of scholars that decoded the plant's genome.

"It could provide a healthy, nutritious food source for the world using land and water that currently cannot be used."

And yet, global consumption remains incidental compared to wheat, rice, barley or corn -- less than 100,000 tonnes per year compared to hundreds of millions of tonnes for each of the other major grains and cereals.

"One problem with quinoa is that the plant naturally produces bitter-tasting seeds," Tester explained.

The bitterness -- a natural defence against birds and other pests -- comes from chemical compounds called saponins.

The process for removing these chemicals is labour-intensive and costly, and requires ample use of water.

Another constraint is that quinoa plants tends to have small seed heads and long stalks that can collapse in strong wind or heavy rain.

"Despite its agronomic potential, quinoa is still an underutilised crop, with relatively few active breeding programmes," Tester and three dozen colleagues wrote in the journal Nature.

- Bitter to sweet -

First grown by humans thousands of years ago in the high plateau around Lake Titicaca in the Andes, quinoa is still barely domesticated, the researchers said.

Other major crop plants have been bred for centuries or, more recently, genetically modified to combine optimal traits to boost yield and bolster resistance to pests and climate change.

Now, scientists can delve into the quinoa genome as well.

"Quinoa has great potential to enhance global food security," Tester said.

The fact that some strains grows well at temperatures up to 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), also bodes well for regions hit hardest by global warming.

Tester's team has already pinpointed genes, including one that controls the production of saponins, that could be altered -- through breeding or gene editing -- to enhance quality and yields.

"With this new knowledge of quinoa DNA, we can quickly and easily select plants that do not produce bitter substances in the breeding process," said co-author Robert van Loo, a scientist at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands.

South American varieties could probably be made sweeter with a single gene change, he added.

Most quinoa is grown in three Andean countries: Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The United States and Canada account for nearly 70 percent of exports, followed by France, the Netherlands and Germany.

The price of quinoa has nearly tripled in recent years due to increased demand.

If printed, the sequence of letters corresponding to the quinoa genome -- comprised of 1.3 billion molecular building blocks -- would take up 500,000 pages.

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Spain's Balearic Islands hit by deadly olive tree bacteria
Madrid (AFP) Feb 3, 2017
A deadly bacteria that infected thousands of olive trees in Italy has been detected in Spain's Balearic Islands where authorities are racing to contain it, a regional government official said Friday. Mateu Ginard, head of the regional government's agriculture department, told AFP authorities had decided to declare the entire archipelago a zone affected by Xylella fastidiosa after olive, cher ... read more

NASA Langley Ozone Sensor Set for Launch to Space Station

NASA Makes an EPIC Update to Website for Daily Earth Pics

Subscale Glider Could Assist in Weather Studies, Prediction

Wind satellite heads for final testing

NASA space radio could change how flights are tracked worldwide

ISRO to Launch Standby Navigation Satellite to Replace IRNSS-1A

First-ever GPS data release to boost space-weather science

IAI debuts GPS anti-jamming system

Honduras manages to stall pine-munching bugs' march

Amazon forest was transformed by ancient people: study

Coastal wetlands excel at storing carbon

Wetlands play vital role in carbon storage, study finds

A better way to farm algae

DuPont Industrial Biosciences to develop new high-efficiency biogas enzyme method

Cathay Pacific to cut emissions with switch to biofuel

Populus dataset holds promise for biofuels, materials, metabolites

Powerful change: A profile of today's solar consumer

EU to phase out China solar panel duties

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites

Material can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity

Prysmian UK to supply land cable connections for East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm

Russia's nuclear giant pushes into wind energy

The power of wind energy and how to use it

Largest US offshore wind farm gets green light

Do more to advance CCS, BHP Billiton says

Beijing's mayor vows step away from coal

Smog chokes coal-addicted Poland

After oil and gas, Denmark's Dong ditches coal

Exile, jail, abduction: the hazardous lives of China's rich

Missing Chinese billionaire targeted over stocks crash: report

'Abduction' of China tycoon sparks fear in Hong Kong

Hong Kong leadership favourite testifies in corruption trial

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement