Faster breeding of new crops for high quality nutrition: quinoa as example and target crop
Society demands more plant based protein foods in our diet to achieve a Circular Agriculture with smaller foot print and less emissions. To achieve this we need to produce new specialist protein crops. Quinoa is one those new crops that fit well in such diets, but we need varieties with higher protein content and yield to reduce cost price and improve quality.
For new crops like quinoa new key breeding technologies need to be developed, e.g. flexible genotyping tools that can be applied to biodiversity analysis and genetic linkage mapping, as well as advanced phenotyping tools. This project aims to develop both genetic key technologies and phenotyping key technologies for quinoa, and new crops in general.
Quinoa is chosen as a model crop, because the level of consumption of locally grown quinoa increases in NL and EU. The Dutch seed industry has a large opportunity for growth in NL and international seed sales of quinoa. First steps towards advanced breeding techniques have been set (e.g. the genome of quinoa was co-published by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in Nature in 2017). WUR has developed its own quinoa varieties performing well across Europe, Turkey and even in the Andes. The combination of disease resistance, good yield, photoperiod insensitivity and the non-bitter seed coat make these varieties very popular.
The consortium of Dutch and Ecuadorian companies wants to make better use of quinoa genetic resources and wants to promote the further genetic improvement of germplasm in order to produce improved quinoa varieties to support their business and ambitions. There is a need to broaden the genetic diversity in the non-bitter breeding pool for which germplasm from Ecuador will be tested.
The project contributes to Circular Agriculture by enabling local production of protein-rich quinoa to alleviate increasing environmental pressure in original production area in the Andes and long-distance transport of food and their minerals. Further, as its products contain high amounts of essential amino acids, quinoa also contributes to the protein transition towards more plant-based proteins with less mineral emissions. Furthermore, quinoa is a climate resilient crop that can grow in adverse conditions (e.g short seasons, low rainfall, high salinity), therefore also contributing to climate neutral agriculture.