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Chenopodium quinoa: a high quality food crop as an opportunity for evaluating soil improvement in arid agroecosystems

Martinez E.A., Bhargava A., Bazile D., Fuentes F., Negrete Sepulveda J., Thomet M., Vega-Galvez A., Zurita A.. 2012. In : UNCCD. Book of Abstracts of the 4th International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification, Sede Boqer, Israel, November 12-15, 2012. s.l. : Samara Bel, p. 91-92. International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification. 4, 2012-11-12/2012-11-15, Sede Boqer (Israël).

The FAO has highlighted the outstanding nutritional value and the surprising stress-tolerance mechanisms of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.). This Andean food presents an opportunity to address the hunger and climatic challenges that are occurring today all over the world. For instance, Dr. Atul Bhargava, from India, stated that a program for the genetic improvement of quinoa for the agroecosystems and for the climatic conditions of India is an opportunity for seven hundred million small-scale farmers and their families. This is not just a market opportunity, but an opportunity for food security. Most of them are vegetarians. Producing one kilogram of beef might require 15.000 liters of water, something not affordable in many places of the world. Quinoa grains have the whole set of twenty amino acids, including all the essential ones, plus vitamins, minerals, excellent quality flavonoids, starch and good quality fatty acids, among other useful properties. Chile, very far from India, could be of some help in facing the challenge, under the scenario of widespread desertification. Our narrow land has three thousand kilometers in length where quinoa has been cultivated for the last three thousand years, across many latitudes, day lengths, soils and climate types. Such diversity is agroecological, but it also contains the agricultural practices of the ancient peoples of the Andes Mountains. Such crop adaptation has provoked genetic differences among quinoa populations, grouped in two main ecotypes: salares and coastal/lowland, representing a great genetic diversity between 18° and 40° of southern latitude in soils from the arid areas to the cold-temperate areas of Chile. Here, we summarize how simple soil management of our arid region can significantly improve quinoa grain yields under extreme low irrigation. Our soils are almost depleted of organic matter, a millenary condition that modern intensive agricultural practices can render even worse if the addition of chemical fertilizers continue to be the predominant practice. Technological solutions, such as drip irrigation, might help the water economy, but soils will continue accumulating salts. Here, we show how quinoa yields are high, even in saline soils, plus how yield improvements are made by adding organic matter, a practice almost abandoned by many modern farmers. Integrated crops further reduce soil salinity. Paradoxically, our region loses tons of organic matter, thrown away weekly from our towns, due to a lack of city planning or regulations related to the discarding of household and agro-industrial organic wastes. These results also present an opportunity for many arid agro-ecosystems of the world. (Texte intégral)

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