New Market Crops. I'm Greg Martin with today's Line On Agriculture.
WSU Researcher Kevin Murphy is trying to develop some new varieties of cover crops for producers to use in rotation here in the northwest. Buckwheat and quinoa are being studied at WSU for their viability.
MURPHY: We haven't started yet but we are going to initiate some basic research with buckwheat and it has the basic ability to mobilize phosphorus in the soil for succeeding crops so we're going to look at how different varieties can affect this phosphorus mobilization in the soil and how we can exploit that and see what kind of influence this has on succeeding crops. Especially crops that are dependent on higher levels of phosphorus.
Quinoa has not been grown in the area so Murphy says it may be a challenge.
MURPHY: Quinoa is even more challenging since I mentioned it hasn't been grown much over 40 or 42 degrees north latitude. We are looking at 44 different quinoa varieties from all over the world. The best ones are from Central Chile right now. They've been growing there for a long time as well.
His long-term goal is to breed varieties growers can count on regardless of where they live in Washington.
MURPHY: Out in the field now there are some that are 8 feet tall and have fairly spindly heads. There are some that are 3 feet tall with spindly heads but there's a good number of them that are 4 feet tall. Really stiff, stalk; really strong. Good aphid resistance. That's another thing we are looking for. That and with big, fat heads packed full off seeds that don't shatter and that can be harvested uniformly. You just harvest it like any other grain with a combine.
Interestingly the long days and short nights of the northwest are not to the quinoa's liking so that is a challenge for Murphy.
MURPHY: If even 4 or 5 of these mature that would be a really great success. Even if 2 of them do really well at mature and have nice heads like we like and good uniformity then we have something to work with. Something to offer, to tell farmers that's already out there and then also as a basis for the breeding program to get that started.
One other aspect is the ability to sell the products locally and already a couple of outlets have expressed interest in both the buckwheat and quinoa.
MURPHY: The store managers that we've talked to said that they'd be very happy to buy anything farmers can grow here. So what I don't have at this point is an estimate of how many acres could service that demand and it's hard to do because we don't really have quality yield data yet.
That's today's Line On Agriculture. I'm Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network.