IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — A local quinoa supplier plans to significantly expand his contracted acreage of the nutritious, gluten-free grain next season, and to start commercial planting of a quinoa variety he bred himself.
This season, Jeremiah Clark worked with 27 growers who raised 1,600 acres of quinoa, which he cleaned and packaged at his facility.
“I see that (acreage) probably tripling next year,” said Clark, who believes there’s sufficient interest from his current grower base to handle the quinoa production expansion.
Clark said his quinoa demand far surpassed production this season, but contracts weren’t finalized in time to get the extra acres planted.
“This year, we’ll know by the end of November what we want to do,” Clark said.
Clark also plans to look at property this winter for building a bigger cleaning facility, which could be completed in time to process next fall’s harvest.
“We could do two or three times the capacity where we’re at, but it would be a good challenge,” Clark said.
Next season, he’ll also start the first commercial production of his own variety, Kailey, named for his daughter. Kailey yields better than the two Colorado varieties his growers have been planting, produces 10 percent larger kernels and matures about a month earlier. The early maturation should make it easier for growers to plant fall crops after quinoa, reduce the risk of crop damage due to extreme weather and enable growers to be done cutting their quinoa fields by the time potato harvest starts.
Clark said he gave the University of Idaho 100 Kailey seeds, which UI planted in a greenhouse last winter. The greenhouse generated a couple of pounds of seed, which a grower in Oregon planted on 2 acres, providing a seed supply for next season’s commercial production.
Clark said about 70 percent of his fields produced an adequate crop this season, but two or three fields experienced “complete failures” and weren’t harvested. Clark said most of the problems were on dryland farms, where summer rainfall was insufficient. However, he also had a dryland field in the Ashton area that yielded as well as some of the irrigated fields.
One of his irrigated growers noticed a large yield boost in quinoa planted after a cover crop.
“He’s going to plant a cover crop again and plant quinoa behind that cover crop next year,” Clark said.