FFAR Seeding Solutions Grant to Improve Nutrition in Quinoa



  • Health-Agriculture Nexus

PULLMAN (March 2, 2021)— Quinoa, a crop known for its protein quality and nutritional content, is widely consumed in the US. Despite its popularity, quinoa is still underutilized because it is imported, even though nutritious, high-quality varieties can grow and thrive in this country. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $1 million Seeding Solutions grant to Washington State University (WSU) to continue research for their Enhancing Human Health project that is identifying opportunities to improve the nutritional content of various crop varieties. This research is focusing specifically on quinoa and quinoa-based food products. Lundberg Family Farms and WSU provided matching funds and Ardent Mills, Brabender CWB and Seattle Food Tech/Rebellyous Foods provided additional support for a total $2,044,872 research investment.

Quinoa contains a significant amount of the nine essential amino acids required to fulfill our daily protein requirement. However, little information is available on how soil and other environmental factors influence the nutritional quality of quinoa varieties in different geographic regions. Quinoa has the potential to contribute to global food security in regions that cannot support the growth of major crops, while also being economically viable for growers in these areas. To achieve this potential, quinoa varieties must have a high nutritional value wherever it is grown.

Quinoa’s nutritional quality and ease of cultivation make it a phenomenal crop. This research will produce new varieties that can be developed into more nutritious, flavorful and affordable crops in diverse environments. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Washington State University researchers, led by Dr. Kevin Murphy, are growing new quinoa varieties and analyzing them for amino acid and micronutrient concentrations. The researchers are testing soil and nutrient management practices that enhance the crops’ nutritional values while also improving yield. Thousands of quinoa varieties are being evaluated in diverse soil types and unique environments.

Additionally, the research bridges gaps between agricultural scientists and human health scientists. The team is analyzing the impact of raw quinoa and quinoa-based food product consumption on human digestive health. The quinoa samples are being analyzed by a microbiome simulator that the WSU team is developing, and a human clinical trial will determine how quinoa’s nutrients are digested and impact health markers.

Dr. Murphy commented, “Our goal with this project is to use quinoa as a model crops species as we develop a research pipeline between plant breeders, soil scientists, food product developers and human health researchers with the goal of enhancing the health, nutrition and affordability of foods we eat every day.”

Pilot funding for the overall Enhancing Human Health project came from WSU’s Strategic Reallocation Research Projects, part of the university’s Grand Challenges initiative.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

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