History of Quinoa: Its Origin,
Domestication, Diversiﬁcation, and
Cultivation with Particular Reference to the
Chilean Contex t
Enrique A. Martínez
, and Didier Bazile
Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas, La Serena and Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, Universidad Católica del
Norte, Coquimbo, Chile
Facultad de Agronomía e Ingeniería Forestal, Ponticia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 306-22, Santiago, Chile
UPR47, GREEN, CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement),
TA C-47/F, Campus International de Baillarguet, 34398 Montpellier, Cedex 5, France
QUINOA ORIGINS IN THE CENTRAL ANDES
Quinoa, a tetraploid crop plant, was described for
the rst time in 1797 by the German botanist and
pharmacist Carl Ludwig Willdenow. It has been
cultivated for the past 8,000 years in the South
American Andes. It is hypothesized that the
closest ancestors of quinoa could be the species
Chenopodium berlandieri var. nuttalliae, distributed
in North America, or a complex of species grow-
ing in the southern hemisphere, including
Chenopodium pallidicaule Aellen (Kañahua),
Chenopodium petiolare Kunth, Chenopodium
carnasolum Moq., and the tetraploïd species,
Chenopodium hircinum Schard or Chenopodium
quinoa var. melanospermum. All these species are
from the Andes (Wilson and Heiser 1979; Heiser
and Nelson 1974; Mujica and Jacobsen 2000;
Fuentes et al. 2009a). The areas cultivated with
quinoa in South America goes from 2
latitude in Colombia to 47
South latitude in
Chile, and from 4,000 m in the high Andes to the
Quinoa: Improvement and Sustainable Production, First Edition. Edited by Kevin Murphy and Janet Matanguihan.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
sea level in southern latitudes. Particular adapta-
tions of this species to certain geographical areas
along the Andes gave rise to ve major ecotypes
associated with subcenters of diversity, differing
in branching morphology and adaptations to
rainfall regimes with precipitation of 2000 mm
per year to strong drought stress of 150 mm per
year. These ecotypes are the (i) Inter Andean
valleys quinoa (in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru);
(ii) Highlands quinoa (in Peru and Bolivia);
(iii) Yungas quinoa (in Bolivian subtropical for-
est); (iv) “Salares” quinoa in salt ats (in Bolivia,
northern Chile, and Argentina); and (v) Coastal
quinoa, from lowlands or from sea level (in central
and southern Chile). The expansion routes from
the Titicaca Lake were summarized by Fuentes
et al. (2012) and supported with genetic data as
revealed with the use of molecular markers.
The domestication process must have included
all factors of the domestication syndrome, includ-
ing larger fruit size, higher and uniform yields,
reduced branching and bigger inorescence,
20 Quinoa: Improvement and Sustainable Production
reduced seed dormancy, and less auto dehiscence
or seed fall. The quinoa landraces had also
adapted to different soils, climates, and partic-
ularly day-lengths as day-lengths grow longer
in the spring and summer seasons toward the
ANCIENT EXPANSION TO SOUTHERN
LATITUDES IN CHILE
Quinoa cultivation in Chile is centered primarily
on two of the ve main ecotypes, namely the
salt at (“salares”) and the coastal ecotypes.
The “salares” ecotype is distributed in the
Tarapacá and Antofagasta regions (18–25
northern Chile, with elevations over 3,000 m high
(Fig. 2.1). In these regions, highland indigenous
communities (Aymara and Quechua people)
traditionally cultivate these quinoas in saline
soils, with precipitation uctuating between
100 and 200 mm per year falling during the
southern hemisphere summer, from December
to February (Lanino 2006). These ecotypes are
closely related to the quinoa Bolivian varieties
that are also of the “salares” ecotype, probably
because these are also cultivated by the Aymara
and Quechua communities on both sides of
the current Chile–Bolivia border. On the other
hand, there is evidence for the introduction of
some quinoa genetic materials from the Peruvian
Andean zone to the Antofagasta region. Despite
this evidence, the dominant morphology of most
of the quinoa studied so far in Chile is of the “salt
at” ecotype (Fuentes et al. 2009b).
In central Chile (Fig. 2.1) and even at the
more southern latitudes (43
S) (O’Higgins to
Lakes’ political regions), the cultivated quinoa
are different landraces of the coastal ecotype.
Areas of quinoa cultivation are rain-fed and
have variable altitudes between sea level and
1,000 m height. A remarkable difference is that
compared to the extremely dry conditions where
the “salares” quinoa is grown in northern Chile,
rainfall in the central and southern zones of
Chile occurs during the southern hemisphere
winter (June–August), with rainfall uctuations
between 500 and 2,000 mm per year. This rainfall
increases steadily across 34–40
When the two ecotypes, “salares” and coastal
ecotypes cultivated in Chile, are compared, there
is a recognized and remarkable difference in
terms of their adaptation to altitude, tolerance to
drought and salinity, and day-length sensitivity
(Bertero et al. 1999; Bertero 2001). In addition,
the genetic backgrounds of the two main ecotypes
cultivated in Chile are also very different. Inter-
estingly, even within the southern coastal quinoa,
the genetic backgrounds are extremely diverse
(Fuentes et al. 2012).
Only one hybrid has been produced and
recorded in the Chilean national system of
protection for new varieties. The hybrid “La
Regalona” (Von Baer et al. 2009) has been bred
for higher yields and wide adaptation and is able
to grow under day-lengths in latitudes close to the
equator to latitudes as far as the polar latitudes up
(S or N).
The expansion pattern of quinoa in Chile
implies that it underwent a micro-evolutionary
process, supported by a high genetic diversity
that made it possible for ancient peoples to select
quinoa adapted to contrasting and extended
agroecological gradients (Fuentes et al. 2012).
The quinoa adaptation process in Chile occurred
at least since the past 3,000 years, as revealed
by recent dating of seeds found in El Plomo
hill in Santiago, at central Chile (Planella et al.
2011). Seed exchanges occurred throughout
Chile even when ancient peoples from the north
(Aymara, Quechua, Atacameños or Licanantay,
Coyas, Diaguitas), from the center (Picunches,
Pehuenches), and from the south (Mapuches,
Huilliches) spoke different languages. The people
from the south even gave quinoa another name,
dawue (Sapúlveda et al. 2003).
REINTRODUCTION OF QUINOA IN ARID
CHILE AFTER LOCAL EXTINCTION
Quinoa cultivation probably disappeared very
early in the rst two regions colonized by the
Spanish conquerors some 400 years ago, in the
Santiago and the Coquimbo regions, at 33 and
History of Quinoa: Its Origin, Domestication, Diversiﬁcation, and Cultivation 21
Fig. 2.1 Position of Chile in South America (right upper corner) where a long Atacama Desert (a) isolates the country from
southern Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is cultivated in places as the eastern Altiplano (b) at 4,000 m high (“salares” ecotypes), in the
center (c) and south (d) of the country (“coastal” ecotypes) at sea level or piedmont (1,000 masl).
S, respectively. The recent ongoing efforts
to reintroduce quinoa in the arid region of
Coquimbo are supported by the scientic com-
munity. In 2003, a new research center, Centro de
Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA),
started its activities in this northern zone of Chile.
One of the objectives of the research conducted in
this region is to relate climate change and natural
and human-induced activities on natural and
cultivated lands and coastal waters. In this region
S), the climate is mediterranean-desertic
and semi-desertic with a marked seasonality, with
rainfall occurring in winter and 8–10 dry months
per year (Novoa and López 2001). The weather
information available indicates that average
rainfall in La Serena (30
S) has dropped about
100 mm (50%) in the past century (Martínez
et al. 2009a), placing it among those regions with
the greatest decrease in precipitation worldwide
These changes in precipitation coincided with
increases of 0.6
C in the earth’s temperature dur-
ing the past century (http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/
The environmental conditions in the Co-
quimbo region are transitional between the
Mediterranean climate and the Atacama Desert.
Its main transversal (East-West) valleys (Elqui,
Limarí, and Choapa) present an increasing
pluviometry from the North to the South, with
approximately 60 mm per year rainfall in the
Elqui Valley to 300 mm per year in the Choapa
valley (Favier et al. 2009). Farmers lost income
from grain crops such as wheat due to low yields.
Farmers who had more income started farming
fruit plantations for export and have been using
drip irrigation (Jorquera 2001). Even though
quinoa had been cultivated as early as 3000 B.P.
in the arid region of Coquimbo (Planella et al.
2011), it probably disappeared very early during
22 Quinoa: Improvement and Sustainable Production
the Spanish conquest when the conquistadores
introduced wheat and other European crops. The
city of La Serena was the second city founded in
Chile, after Santiago, and farmers around both
cities have forgotten even the word “quinoa.”
The social memory loss of quinoa has driven this
crop to near extinction in Chile, with less than
300 quinoa farmers represented in the national
agronomic statistics (INE 2007). In fact, all
ancestral seeds have been lost from the arid region
of Coquimbo. When this fact was known, CEAZA
started to acquire quinoa seeds through eld col-
lections in the rest of the country, from farmers
in the Andes highlands, who cultivate quinoa
at 4,000 m high, and also from other sources in
southern latitudes at sea level (34–40
rst efforts focused on evaluation of the seeds
collected for their adaptation to the arid region,
particularly to determine if quinoa could be
cultivated under the current low precipitation.
The tests were also conducted to determine if
quinoa could replace the wheat crop in areas
from which it has already disappeared due to
the increasing drought trend. The rst results
indicated that seeds from the center and south
of Chile gave higher yields than those collected
from the Andes highlands if sown in the spring
season (Martínez et al. 2007, 2009b). Later on,
results showed that extremely low irrigation was
adequate for the quinoa to produce seeds but
under experimental conditions, where all water
applied was from articial irrigation (Martínez
et al. 2009a). Such experiments showed that
quinoa could grow and produce seeds under
extremely low levels of irrigation, equivalent to
50 mm of rainfall, but applied at very precise
moments of the cycle (growth, owering, and
rain lling). However, precipitation at critical
growth stages cannot be assured for farmers
who depend solely on rainfall. Even though
rainfall could reach 100 mm per year, there are
years when majority of the rainfall comes in a
span of a few days, as in the case in 2012, when
90% of the rainfall came in a single autumn day.
Thus, experimental results can only predict the
economic prot and yields from the arid region of
Chile if articial irrigation is provided. However,
for other southern and more rainy regions of
the country, quinoa undoubtedly can be a good
rain-fed crop for the future.
Quinoa’s tolerance to abiotic stresses is one of
the reasons why the Food and Agriculture Orga-
nization (FAO) of the United Nations declared
2013 as the International Year of Quinoa and to
promote it as one of the crops that alleviate world
hunger and poverty. Other reasons to promote
quinoa are related to its outstanding capacity to
withstand other stressful conditions such as frost
and salinity in soils and irrigation water. Our
experience in reintroducing quinoa in the arid
region of Chile conrmed that germinating seeds
have a high tolerance to salinity. Experimental
results also showed that genetic mechanisms
are triggered in response to salinity: either salts
are rejected from plant tissues or higher salt
concentrations can be tolerated inside the cell
vacuoles (Orsini et al. 2011; Ruiz-Carrasco et al.
2011). Both studies also revealed that quinoas
from central Chile and those from the high Andes
do have landraces highly tolerant to salt stress.
However, those landraces from the more southern
S) are less tolerant to salt stress, as
shown by the study of Delatorre-Herrera and
The nutritional value of quinoa is another
aspect invoked by FAO to promote its world
cultivation and consumption. The presence of
the 20 amino acids in quinoa seed, and twice
the quantity of proteins than that of many
cereals, in addition to minerals, vitamins, good
quality oils and antioxidants, and good quality
starch, make quinoa seed of high nutritional
and functional value (Galwey 1992; Schlick and
Bubenheim 1996; Vega-Gálvez et al. 2010). All
these nutritional properties have been conrmed
for landraces of quinoa from the three ancestral
production zones in Chile (Miranda et al. 2011,
2012a, 2012b). Isoavones, important for improv-
ing milk during breast milk production, have
also been found in Chilean quinoa (Lutz et al.
2013). Other avonoids, probably from its seed
coat saponins, seem to be involved in antibacterial
activity (Miranda et al. 2013).
History of Quinoa: Its Origin, Domestication, Diversiﬁcation, and Cultivation 23
The ancestral progenitors of quinoa might
have originated in North America, but quinoa
production and the culture that developed
alongside its cultivation and consumption is
known to be shared among the ancient peoples
of South America. In ancient times, quinoa was
grown from the southern part of South America
from the highlands of what is now Bolivia, to the
furthest austral latitudes and lowlands of Chile
and Argentina, where the agrocultural tradition of
quinoa almost disappeared. This long latitudinal
gradient implies at least 3,000 years of quinoa
acclimation to new lands, new climates, and
longer day-lengths. Interestingly, the nutritional
quality and stress-tolerant properties of quinoa
did not change. Efforts to reintroduce quinoa
to the arid regions of Chile have shown that
certain quinoa landraces could produce seed even
under extremely low irrigation levels, but it has
to be applied at precise points during the growth
cycle. At present, there is a wide range of quinoa
landraces that can be adapted to new areas in the
world. Stress-tolerant quinoa can be grown in
marginal areas or under harsher environments
where the more traditional crops cannot be
grown. Moreover, quinoa seed is extremely
nutritious and can fulll the need and demands of
a growing world population for high-quality food.
Bertero HD. 2001. Effects of photoperiod, temperature and radi-
ation on the rate of leaf appearance in quinoa (Chenopodium
quinoa Willd.) under eld conditions. Ann Bot 87:495–502.
Bertero HD, King RW, Hall AJ. 1999. Modelling photoperiod
and temperature responses of owering in quinoa (Cheno-
podium quinoa Willd.). Field Crops Res 63:19–34.
Delatorre-Herrera J, Pinto M. 2009. Importance of ionic and
osmotic components of salt stress on the germination of four
quinua (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) selections. Chilean J Agr
Favier V, Falvey M, Rabatel A, Praderio E, López D. 2009. Inter-
preting discrepancies between discharge and precipitation in
high-altitude area of Chile’s Norte chico region (26–32 S).
Water Res Res 45:W02424 10.1029/2008WR006802.
Fuentes FF, Espinoza PA, Von Baer I, Jellen EN, Maughan
PJ. 2009a. Determinación de relaciones genéticas entre
Chenopodium quinoa Willd. del sur de Chile y parientes
silvestres del género Chenopodium. Anales del XVII Congreso
Nacional de Biología del Perú, Tacna, Perú, p. 45.
Fuentes FF, Martínez EA, Hinrichsen PV, Jellen EN, Maughan
PJ. 2009b. Assessment of genetic diversity patterns in
Chilean quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) germplasm
using multiplex uorescent microsatellite markers. Conserv
Fuentes FF, Bazile D, Bhargava A, Martínez EA. 2012. Implica-
tions of farmers’ seed exchanges for on-farm conservation of
quinoa, as revealed by its genetic diversity in Chile. J Agric
Galwey NW. 1992. The potential of quinoa as a multi-purpose
crop for agricultural diversication: a review. Ind Crops Prod
Heiser CB, Nelson CD. 1974. On the origin of cultivated
Chenopods (Chenopodium). Genetics 78:503–505.
INE-Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas. 2007. VII Censo Nacional
Agropecuario y Forestal (Internet) (cited June 24, 2013).
Available at: http://www.ine.cl/canales/base_datos/otras_
Jorquera C. 2001. Evolución Agropecuaria de la Región de
Coquimbo: Análisis contextual para la conservación de la
vegetación nativa. Squeo FA, Arancio G, Gutierrez JR.
Libro rojo de la ora de la región de Coquimbo, y de los
sitios prioritarios para su conservación. La Serena, Chile:
Ediciones Universidad de La Serena. 386.
Lanino M. 2006. Características climáticas de ancovinto
durante 2005 a 2006. Iquique, Chile: Boletín Tecnico
Lutz M, Martínez EA, Martínez A. 2013. Daidzein and genistein
contents in seeds of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd)
from local ecotypes grown in arid Chile. Ind Crops Prod
Martínez EA, Delatorre J, Von Baer I. 2007. Quínoa: las poten-
cialidades de un cultivo sub-utilizado en Chile. Tierra Aden-
tro (INIA) 75:24–27.
Martínez EA, Veas E, Jorquera C, San Martín R, Jara P. 2009a.
Re-introduction of Chenopodium quinoa Willd. into arid Chile:
cultivation of two lowland races under extremely low irriga-
tion. J Agron Crop Sci 195:1–10.
Martínez EA, Jorquera-Jaramillo C, Veas E, Chía E. 2009b. El
futuro de la quínoa en la región árida de Coquimbo: lecciones
y escenarios a partir de una investigación sobre su biodiversi-
dad en chile para la acción con agricultores locales. Revista de
Geografía de Valparaíso 42:95–111.
Miranda M, Bazile D, Fuentes FF, Vega-Gálvez A, Uribe E,
Quispe I, Lemus R, Martínez EA. 2011. Quinoa crop biodi-
versity in Chile: an ancient plant cultivated with sustainable
agricultural practices and producing grains of outstanding
and diverse nutritional values. In: 6th International CIGR
Technical Symposium – Section 6: “Towards a Sustainable
Food Chain” Food Process, Bioprocessing and Food Quality
Management, Nantes, France.
24 Quinoa: Improvement and Sustainable Production
Miranda M, Vega-Gálvez A, Quispe-Fuentes I, Rodríguez MJ,
Maureira H, Martínez EA. 2012a. Nutritional aspects of
six quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) ecotypes from three
geographical areas of Chile. Chilean J Agric Res 72:175–181.
Miranda M, Vega-Gálvez A, Martinez EA, López J, Rodríguez
MJ, Henríquez K, Fuentes FF. 2012b. Genetic diversity and
comparison of physicochemical and nutritional characteristics
of six quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) genotypes culti-
vated in Chile. Food Sci Tech 32:835–843.
Miranda M, Vega-Gálvez A, Jorquera E, López J, Martínez EA.
2013. Antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of quinoa seeds
(Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) from three geographical zones
of Chile. Méndez-Vilas A. Worldwide research efforts in the
ght against microbial pathogens: from basic research to tech-
nological development. Boca Raton, FL: Brown Walker Press.
Mujica A, Jacobsen SE. 2000. Agrobiodiversidad de las aynokas
de quinua (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) y la seguridad
alimentaria. Seminario Agrobiodiversidad en la Región
Andina y Amazónica, pp. 151–156.
Novoa JE, López D. 2001. IV Región: El escenario geográco
físico. En Libro rojo de la ora nativa y de los sitios priori-
tarios para su conservación: región de Coquimbo. Squeo FA,
Arancio G, Gutierrez JR, Libro rojo de la ora de la región de
Coquimbo, y de los sitios prioritarios para su conservación. La
Serena, Chile: Ediciones Universidad de La Serena. 13–28.
Orsini F, Accorsi M, Gianquinto G, Dinelli G, Antognoni F,
Ruiz-Carrasco KB, Martínez EA, Alnayef M, Marotti I, Bosi
S, Biondi S. 2011. Beyond the ionic and osmotic response to
salinity in Chenopodium quinoa: functional elements of suc-
cessful halophytism. Funct Plant Biol 38:818–831.
Planella MT, Scherson R, McRostie V. 2011. Sitio El Plomo
y nuevos registros de cultígenos iniciales en cazadores del
Arcaico IV en alto Maipo, Chile central. Chungara, Revista
de Antropología Chilena 43:189–202.
Ruiz-Carrasco KB, Antognoni F, Coulibaly AK, Lizardi S,
Covarrubias A, Martínez EA, Molina-Montenegro MA,
Biondi S, Zurita-Silva A. 2011. Variation in salinity tolerance
of four lowland genotypes of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa
Willd.) as assessed by growth, physiological traits, and
sodium transporter gene expression. Plant Physiol Biochem
Schlick G, Bubenheim DL. 1996. Quinoa: candidate crop for
NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems. Janick
J. Progress in new crops. Arlington, TX: ASHS Press.
Sepúlveda J, Thomet M, Palazuelos P, Mujica MA. 2003.
La Kinwa Mapuche, recuperación de un cultivo para la
alimentación. Chile: CET-Sur, Fundación para la Innovación
Agraria, Ministerio de Agricultura.
A. Martínez. 2010. Nutrition facts and functional potential of
quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.), an ancient Andean grain:
a review. J Sci Food Agr 90:2541–2547.
Von Baer I, Bazile D, Martínez EA. 2009. Cuarenta años de
mejoramiento de la quínoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) en la
Araucanía: origen de “La Regalona-B”. Revista Geográca
de Valparaíso 42:34–44.
Wilson HW, Heiser CB. 1979. The origin and evolutionary rela-
tionships of ‘huauzontle’ (Chenopodium nuttalliae Safford),
domesticated chenopod of Mexico. Am J Bot 66:198–206.