The Sustainable Seed Systems Lab at Washington State University is dedicated to breeding alternative crops. Crop diversity is a key tenet of sustainable agriculture. Having multiple crops that fill distinct niches in an agroecosystem improves the ability to manage weeds, diseases, and insect pests as well as potentially improving the environmental performance of the cropping system. Research can help overcome production and market obstacles that enable the successful introduction of alternative crops.
Projects, ongoing or in publication
Studies located in the Palouse
"Rotational Friendliness" of Quinoa
The project is investigating the effects of quinoa in organic crop rotations. We are gaining a better understanding of agronomic practices for quinoa in organic systems, crop yield and quality, crop nutrient use, impacts on soil health and quality, insect pest communities, and economics over multiple years of various organic grain cropping sequences for the Palouse region.
Learn more about this project here.
Fostering the development of regional and craft malting barley production in the Palouse.
We seek to explore and foster the potentially fruitful relationship between barley breeders, farmers, maltsters, and craft brewers concerning the development of a regional craft malting barley industry.
Developing agronomic strategies to optimize production of quinoa and hulless barley on no-till farms in the Palouse.
With the support of a Western SARE grant we are investigating the best varieties, seeding rates, and nitrogen fertilizations for the healthful crops quinoa and hulless (also known as food) barley under no-till conditions in several rainfall areas of the Palouse. All of our trials are conducted with Palouse farmer cooperators who generously devote land, time, and knowledge to our project.
Lexicon development and descriptive analysis of cooked quinoa
A sensory attributes lexicon was developed on cooked quinoa. The lexicon includes color, aroma, flavor, and texture attributes. Ten panelists of diverse backgrounds were trained for 18 hours. With the developed lexicon, formal evaluation was conducted on 21 quinoa samples, which included 16 varietal trial samples of Washington State University, and five commercial samples. The sensory attributes difference among samples was determined. The result from sensory panel will be correlated with that of instrumental tests, such as Texture Analyzer and Electronic tongue.
Consumer preference of quinoa varieties
Consumer preference of quinoa varieties will be conducted using cooked quinoa. The samples will include quinoa of different color, flavor, and texture. The correlations between preference and consumers’ demography, quinoa seed characteristics and composition would be studied.
Quinoa starch characteristics and their correlations with texture of cooked quinoa
Starch characteristics exhibited significant influence on the functionality and end-use quality and cereal product. The composition and properties of quinoa starch were studied. The correlations between starch characteristics and the texture of cooked quinoa were investigated.
Evaluation of texture differences among varieties of cooked quinoa
Texture differences of cooked quinoa were studied among 13 different varieties. Correlations between the texture parameters and seed composition, seed characteristics, cooking quality, flour pasting properties, and flour thermal properties were determined.
Proso millet and its potential for cultivation in the Pacific Northwest
View the published review article here:
Phenotypic Responses of Twenty Diverse Proso Millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) Accessions to Irrigation
View the published Open Access article here: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/9/3/389/htm
Potential of warm season crops, their nutritional properties and response to traditional tillage vs. improved tillage
We are studying the response of millet, teff and amaranth to fertilizer applications on traditional tillage and improved tillage agroecosystems in the Palouse.
Phenotypic characterizations of diverse millet lines and their response to applied nitrogen
This project focuses on evaluating seedling growth, overall yield and other different traits including phenological data of several millet lines in response to different application rates of Nitrogen.
Extrusion and nutritional properties of food barley and quinoa grown in no till agroecosystems
The project focuses on studying the extrusion and nutritional properties of food barley and quinoa grown in no till agroecosystems.
Effects of high temperature on quinoa pollen
We are investigating the effects of high temperature on quinoa pollen to further our understanding of potential quinoa mechanisms to endure high temperatures during the flowering stage. We are identifying molecular markers for heat tolerance in quinoa to aid our breeding efforts.
Quinoa variety development
We are conducting crosses with different quinoa genotypes to obtain varieties with high heat tolerance, high yield, free or low saponin content.
Spelt variety development
We are conducting crosses with different spelt genotypes to obtain plants with high yield and improve specific spike characteristics to facilitate threshing.
Studies located in western Washington
Western Washington organic quinoa weeder geese trial
This trial is located at Twin Vista Ranch on Marrowstone Island in western Washington. We are looking at whether or not utilizing weeder geese (White Chinese geese) is an effective method of weed control in organic quinoa production.
Western Washington organic quinoa production: Transplant vs. Direct seeding
Located at three farms on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington, this study tests the viability of later season quinoa planting by transplanting greenhouse seeded quinoa starts. The transplanted quinoa will be compared against direct seeding methods in quinoa production.
Saponin content of quinoa varieties and susceptibility to pest damage
This greenhouse study is focused on determining the saponin content of specific quinoa varieties (in plant leaves) and whether or not the levels of saponins present deter or invite pest feeding.
Organic quinoa evoluntionary participatory breeding
We are working with organic farmers in western WA to develop new quinoa varieties suited to low input production. In collaboration with farmers conducting plant selection for this breeding program, we can develop quinoa varieties locally adapted to their specific growing conditions and management practices.
Quinoa mycorrhizae association
There is contradicting research addressing the question of quinoa associating with mycorrhizal fungi or not. This greenhouse study is looking at ten genetically diverse quinoa genotypes and six species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to determine the extent of root colonization by AMF and growth response.
History of oats in western Washington
A historic analysis will explore why oats have largely disappeared from western Washington. The regional history of the oat crop is used to provide insight into how and why connections between local agriculture and the wider economy change over time, and to reflect on future implications of such changes for agricultural research priorities. View the published article here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.08.003
Milling oats for western Washington
It is well known that oats are agronomically well adapted to western Washington, but the production of milling (food-grade) oats in the region is relatively unexplored. Multi-location variety trials with postharvest evaluation of grain physical and nutritional properties will be used to identify whether milling standards can be met in western Washington and if so, with what varieties. An economic assessment of milling oats as a crop choice for the region will be made.
Hulless oats for poultry feed
We explore the potential for replacing imported corn and wheat with locally-grown hulless oats in the diets of laying hens. Three varieties of oats will be tested against industry-standard corn and wheat diets for their effect on egg productivity and quality. An economic assessment of the oat-based system will also be made.
Winter oat nursery
Winter (fall-sown) oats are a potentially valuable resource for farms in western Washington but have been little tested in the region. A winter oat nursery was initiated in 2014 and brings together hulled and hulless varieties and breeding lines from multiple programs across the US and from overseas. Promising lines may be moved forward for release in the future.
Genetics of oat cold tolerance and yield components
A breeding and genetics project will initiate the development of new winter oat germplasm adapted for grain production in western Washington, while at the same time enhancing fundamental understanding of cold tolerance and yield component genetics.
Studies located in the Columbia Basin
Evaluation of irrigation and soil fertility for potential production of quinoa cultivars in the Columbia Basin
We are studying the agronomic performance of the quinoa cultivars Oro de Valle, Cherry Vanilla, and Titicaca in the Columbia Basin. Specifically, we are investigating the effect of different levels of irrigation regimes and organic amendment on germination, plant height, biomass, nitrogen uptake, seed quality and yield. The experiment sites are located in Roza and Wapato, WA.
Cañar Province, Ecuador
In collaboration with the Mushuk Yuyay agricultural cooperative, we aim to assess and develop nutritious, region-specific quinoa and barley cultivars through participatory plant breeding methods.
Our research in Rwanda focuses on evaluating the adaptability of quinoa, proso millet, and African millets in different agro-climatic zones of Rwanda. Additional ethnographic research is also being conducted on the subject of Rwanda’s Agricultural reform.