Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa
Willd., 2n = 4x = 36) is a highly nutritious crop that is naturally adapted to thrive in a wide range of agroecosystems. Quinoa’s center of diversity is near Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia and Peru, where it has adapted to the arid and saline soils of the high plains of the Andean Altiplano (>3,500 meters above sea level). Quinoa was first domesticated more than 7,000 years ago by Pre-Columbian cultures and was known as the “Mother Grain” of Incan culture 
. With the spread of the Incan empire, quinoa was adapted to diverse environments, including the cool-season Mediterranean climates of Chile as well as the intermediate highland valleys of Peru and Ecuador. Quinoa has consequently adapted to many adverse environmental conditions, including salinity 
, frost, high UV irradiance, and drought 
. Recently, quinoa has gained international attention because of the high nutritional value of its seeds, which are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index 
, and contain an excellent balance of essential amino acids, fibre, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals 
. Thus, quinoa has the potential to provide a highly nutritious food source that can be grown on marginal lands not currently suitable for other major crops. This potential was recognised when the United Nations declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa (http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/what-is-quinoa/nutritional-value/en/
), this being one of only three times plants have received such a designation.
, also known regionally as cañahua or kaniwa, is a nutritionally important annual crop with regional importance in Bolivia and Peru. It is an annual diploid (2n=2x=18; A sub-genome) species. Current cultivation of cañahua occurs in two major centers in the general proximity of Lake Titicaca on the northern Altiplano, namely in the departments of La Paz, Bolivia, and Puno, Peru, although minor cultivation extends into the Bolivian departments of Oruro, Cochabamba, and Potosi, as well as scattered valleys in the Peruvian Andes. C. pallidicuale
is uniquely adapted to the harsh climatic conditions that characterize much of the Andean Altiplano, including extreme elevations (4,000 m.a.s.l), frequent frosts and hail, and arid-saline soils (rainfall between 500 and 600 mm; pH 4.8). The Altiplano region has approximately three million inhabitants, most of whom are subsistence farmers, reinforcing the importance of C. pallidicuale
as a regional food security crop. The percent protein content of the seed ranges from 14 to 19%, with a superior balance of essential amino acids—rivaling that of soybean. Moreover, cañahua flour is high in dietary fiber, lignin, and high antioxidant activity in the phenolic components analyzed, as well as iron and calcium.
is an annual diploid (2n=2x=18; B sub-genome) species. Although not a cultivated crop, the seeds and leaves of C. suecicum
are edible. C. suecicum
is a weedy species native to Eurasia. It is also known as Swedish goosefoot, and is often confused with the hexaploid species C. album
. C. suecicum
is among the extant B-genome diploids that are most closely related to quinoa and may therefore be a potential progenitor of the allotetraploid goosefoot complex.
, also known as pitseed goosefoot, is an annual species that includes both weedy and cultivated varieties. Wild C. berlandieri
grows throughout North America, including the arid and saline regions of the southwestern United States. Cultivated C. berlandieri
, also known as huauzontle, is a regionally important crop in Mexico. C. berlandieri
is an allotetraploid (2n=4x=36; AB sub-genomes) and is closely related to quinoa. Indeed, quinoa is likely a derivative of ancestral C. berlandieri
, and hybrids between the two species are mostly fertile.
is an annual allotetraploid (2n=4x=36; AB sub-genomes) species. It is the species most closely related to quinoa. Indeed, quinoa is believed to have been domesticated from C. hircinum
, which is also known as wild quinoa. C. hircinum
grows throughout southern South America. Although it is edible, it is a weedy species that is often associated with disturbed areas, including quinoa fields, where it can readily cross with quinoa.