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Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Quinoa [English, French, Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Swedish, Tagalog]; Kinoa [Azerbaijani]; merlík [Czech]; tšiili hanemalts [Estonian]; Kvinoa [Finnish]; Andenhirse, Inkakorn, Inkareis, Perureis, Reismelde, Reisspinat, Reismelde [German]; Kinoa [Hungarian]; kinoa, kuinoa [Indonesian, Malaysian]; komosa ryżowa [Polish]; Kvinoja [Slovenian]; arroz andino, kinwa, quinua [Spanish]; Mjölmålla [Swedish]; Kinoaу [Turkish]; Diêm mạch [Vietnamese]; Κινόα [Greek]; Киноа [Russian, Bielorussian]; كينوا [Arabic]; کینوآ [Farsi]; עברית [Hebrew]; ] 藜麥 [Chinese]; キヌア[Japanese]; 퀴노아 [Korean]


Chenopodium hircinum subsp. milleanum Aellen


Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is an Andean pseudo-cereal crop that is mainly cultivated for its energy and protein-rich, gluten-free seeds. Quinoa can be grown as a green vegetable, and its leaves can be eaten fresh or cooked. Leaves, seeds and crop residues from grain harvesting and milling can be fed to livestock.


Quinoa is an annual herbaceous plant growing to a height of 0.2-3 m. Its has a variable habit: it can be many-branched or not, and it varies in colour ranging from green to red and depends on genotype and conditions of growing (Singh, 2019; Lim, 2013). The root system is extensive, made of a conical taproot that goes 15 cm deep, and of many secondary and tertiary rootlets that can go as deep as 1.8 m (Singh, 2019). The stems are erect, angular, full above soil and hollow at inflorescence level, ribbed with longitudinal green or red streaks. Quinoa foliage is variable in colour. The leaves are alternate, simple, polymorph. The shape of the leafblade varies along the stem: the lower leaves are toothed ovate-rhomboid to deltoid, while the upper leaves are toothed, elliptic-oblong to lanceolate. In the leafblade, numerous calcium oxalate granules regulate moisture retention and prevent the plant from freezing and dehydrating in dry conditions (Singh, 2019). The inflorescence is a loose or compact panicle borne at the apex of the stems, 15-70 cm long. The panicle bears a number of small (3 mm), incomplete, sessile flowers that have no petals. Quinoa seeds are held in clusters on the panicle. They are light, small (2-3 mg; 2 mm), variable in colour (white, red, black), the colour being due to the resinous coating that contains saponins (Singh, 2019).


Quinoa seeds (grain) are used as staple food or as an alternative energy-rich, gluten-free grain with high protein content, valuable essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants. Quinoa grain can be cooked (boiled) in the same manner as rice and provides a tasty, fluffy, chewy food with nutlike flavour. It can be added to soups, stews or "tamales". Quinoa grain can be used as a breakfast cereal or it can be ground to make porridge or flour and is then used in bakery to make, breads, pancakes, pastries and biscuits. It can partially replace wheat in loaf breads (Lim, 2013). Being gluten-free, quinoa grain is included in many food recipes intended for people with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and is well accepted by consumers (Lim, 2013). The grain can be fermented to prepare hot or cold beverages and beer. It can be used in the preparation of chicha, a reference beverage on South America (Metheny et al., 2015). A nutritive drink consisting of a mixture of quinoa grain, mesquite (Prosopis chilensis) and lupine (Lupinus albus), flavoured with raspberry pulp has been used for the re-nutrition of undernourrished children (Cerezal Mezquita et al., 2012). Quinoa has functional properties that make it valuable technological ingredient for the food industry (Abugoch James, 2009). Quinoa yields a valuable oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and in vitamin E (Lim, 2013). Quinoa leaves are used as potherb. They can be eaten raw in salad or cooked like spinaches (Ecocrop, 2019; Maughan et al., 2007). Ear quinoa can be prepared in pickles (Lim, 2013). The leaves, stems and grain have medicinal uses (Hernandez Bermejo et al., 1994)

Quinoa grain, vegetative parts, crop residues and processing by-products can be used to feed livestock (Blanco Callisaya, 2015). All parts of the quinoa plant were fed to camelids prior to Conquistador invasion. After the invasion, it was fed to cattle, sheep, pigs and birds (Hernandez Bermejo et al., 1994). The quinoa crop provides a range of feeds for farm animals:


Quinoa is a pseudo-ceral crop of the Andean region of South America. It used to be underutilized but it is now being grown in a wide range of environments. Its potential was rediscovered during the second half of the twentieth century and an increasing number of countries - 56 in 2014 - are growing or trying to grow quinoa (FAO/CIRAD, 2015). Quinoa originated from the Andean region where it was already cultivated 5000 years BCE (Garcia, 2003). The names "quinoa" and "quinua" were used in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile (León, 1964). The Incas were reported to regard the quinoa as a sacred food and referred to it as chisaya mama or mother grain. Quinoa was also called Inca Gold.

Quinoa is grown in a wide range of environments in South America, especially in and around the Andes, at latitudes from 20°N in Colombia to 40°S in Chile, and from sea level to an altitude of 3800 (-4000) m (Risi et al., 1989; Ecocrop, 2019). It has recently been introduced in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. Quinoa generally does well in cool climates, but it can survive with temperatures ranging from -8°C in the night to 38°C during the day. Quinoa yield is much reduced (-70%) if light frost (-2.2°C) occurs during the blooming stage. Once seeds have reached the soft-dough stage, the plant survive lower temperatures (-6.7°C). Quinoa grows in areas where annual rainfall is between 500-2000 mm with a well-distributed rainfall between early stage and maturity but some ecotypes are still producing on 200-250 mm or above 2000 mm (Singh, 2019). Drought resistance is favoured by several mechanisms: quinoa has an extensive root system that can explore a large volume of soil; the plant cells are small and thick-walled, maintaining plant turgescence; the presence of crystals of calcium oxalate on the leaves regulates the moisture and evaporation at their surface, and the plant responds to drought by shedding its leaves under dry condition, thus reducing evaporation (Azurita-Silva et al., 2015).

Quinoa can grow on a wide range of soils, preferring semi-deep, well-drained unfertile and sandy soil; it still grows on clayey ones. Quinoa plant responds well to N fertilizer (Jacobsen, 2015). Every quinoa ecotype is suited to specific growing conditions. Some ecotypes are adapted to high altitude and cooler temperatures, while others are adapated to drought and/or salted/alkaline soils with pH range of 4.5-8 (Lim, 2013). Quinoa is sensitive to aluminium under acidic conditions (Singh, 2019): liming the soil my alleviate this problem.

Quinoa is a versatile species: some varieties are found at elevations from 2500-4000 m near the equator, while some varieties in Chile and Bolivia are grown at sea level (Ecocrop, 2019). Chenopodium quinoa can be divided into 5 ecotypes (Gomez Pando et al., 2016):

  • Vally: long growing period, multi-stemmed, loose panicle, tall plants, sometimes higher than 2.4 m, resistant to mildew and suited to 2000-3600 m.
  • Altiplano: short growing period, single-stemmed, 0.5-1.5 m high, panicle compact, suited above 4000 m, frost-hardy type but sensitive to mildew (Gomez Pando et al., 2016).
  • Salar: hardy and salt tolerant, resistant to dry conditions (300 mm), single-stemmed, panicle compact, seeds 2.2 mm with coarse coating containing high amount of saponin. Some of these varieties are known as Quinoa Real.
  • Sea level: long-day plant, multi-stemmed, 1-1.4 m high, seeds creamy in colour (chullpi type). Similar to huahzontle (Chenopodium nuttalliae) cultivated in Mexico at 20°N latitude.
  • Subtropical type, mainly multi-stemmed, higher than 2.2 m. The plant is green during growth and intense orange at blooming stage. The seeds are orange in colour.

In the new areas of cultivation, the versatility of quinoa could be helpful for using it as a break between cereal crops and after potato in Europe or as a source of food diversification in the scarce conditions of high altitude of the Himalayas and North Indian Plains (Bhargava et al., 2006; Galwey, 1992). Nowadays, quinoa is grown commercially throughout the western regions of South America, including Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru for domestic markets and emerging export markets in Japan, Australia, Europe and North America. In 2013, 94% of European imports were coming from Bolivia (Jacobsen, 2015).

Worldwide production was 146 000 t in 2017 (FAO, 2019). The main quinoa producers are Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. In Bolivia, quinoa production was 9200 t in 1961 and over 66 000 t in 2017. In Peru, it was 22494 t in 1961 and reached 78657 t in 2017 (FAO, 2019). Quinoa grain production is expected to keep increasing, with international support from both political and industry organizations in Europe and Asia. Quinoa holds much promise and the FAO declared it as one of the crops destined to offer food security in the 21st century (Bhargava et al., 2013).


Grain cleaning and storage

Once harvested, the quinoa grain undergoes a series of cleaning and screening operations in order to remove chaff, twigs, leaves, small stones, discarded grains etc.(Quiroga et al., 2015). The grain can be stored at ambient temperature, in plastic bags or in large silos provided it is protected from rodents and moths (Quiroga et al., 2015).

Saponin removal

Quinoa grain contains variable amount of N-free glycosides called saponins that impart bitterness to the grain. In Andean households, a way to reduce the saponin content is to soak, thoroughly wash, and rub the grain in water, or in lime-added water. It is considered that the saponins have been removed if the grain placed in a tube of water and shaked during 30s does not produce foam anymore. Further removal can be obtained through extrusion or roasting (Brady et al., 2007). In industrial removal, the seed is husked, washed, centrifugated and dried. Up to 95% of saponins are eliminated in the hulling machine; the rest is washed away with water. Quinoa grain processed industrially contains 0.01–0.06% saponins, a level much lower than the unpalatability level (Quiroga et al., 2015).

Forage management 


Grain yield

Average quinoa seed yield is about 400-900 kg/ha, but yields up to 2-3 t/ha can be obtained (Ecocrop, 2019; Jacobsen et al., 1994). In the Andean region, yields could vary from 1.2 t/ha in the altiplano types to 3.5 t/ha in other types (Gomez Pando et al., 2016). In India, under normal conditions, yields of 1.7-2 t/ha have been obtained (Singh, 2019). In Denmark, yield depended on the harvesting method but was found to range from 2.26 to 3.5 t/ha (Jacobsen et al., 1994). In France, 3 t/ha could be obtained (L'Avenir Agricole, 2015).

Forage yield

In Ecuador, quinoa forage harvested at 135 days contained 55% leaves and panicles, and 45% stalks for a total yield of 10.2 t DM/ha (Capelo Baez, 1979). In Mexico, 18 varieties of quinoa forage averaged 7.7 to 11.4 t DM/ha (Bañuelos Tavares et al., 1995). In another trial, quinoa biomass went from 18 to 74 t/ha between 9 and 17 weeks after sowing (von Rütte, 1988).


Quinoa seeds should be sown in a moist, well-prepared, weeded (manual or mechanical with the help of false seeding technique) and raised seedbed (to prevent waterlogging)(Singh, 2019; Jacobsen, 2015; L'Avenir Agricole, 2015). The seeds were traditionally broadcasted in the Andean regions but it is recommended to sow in rows as it eases weeding and harvesting operations. The seeds should be sown to a depth of 3 cm and the soil must be tightly packed. The density of seeds may be variable: a spacing interval of 40-50 cm between the rows (corresponding to 6-8 kg seeds/ha) was recommended in India (Singh, 2019). In Denmark, various spacing intervals ranging from 12.5 cm to 50 cm resulted in similar yields (Jacobsen et al., 1994). In France a seeding rate of 8-10 kg has been advised (L'Avenir Agricole, 2015). Weeding is recommended during the first stages of development of quinoa as the seedlings develop slowly and might be smothered by weeds. It is possible to irrigate quinoa but only after the 2-3 leaf stage.

Quinoa is a fast-growing crop that requires no more than 90 days to mature and be harvested. Determining the date of harvest is important. Harvest should not be delayed, especially when cloudy, rainy weather is susceptible to occur, because moisture may trigger germination of the seeds on the plant and impair grain quality. Another reason for not delaying harvest is that harvesting over mature seeds results in important seed losses as the seeds fall from the panicle during harvest (Singh, 2019).


Manual harvesting

Harvesting quinoa grain can be done manually with a sickle in the early hours of the morning so that moisture prevent the seeds from being shed. The plant is then cut 15 (-20) -30 cm above ground (Singh, 2019; Gomez Pando et al., 2016). The plant should not be dug out as it may bring sand on the seeds (Gomez Pando et al., 2016). The cuttings are then brought to the farm where they are threshed. The grains are cleaned by screening or winnowing. In India, it is considered that quinoa should be harvested when the shaked panicle shed dry seeds (Singh, 2019).

Mechanical harvest

Quinoa grain harvest can be done with a swathing machine or with a combine-harvester (Jacobsen et al., 1994). It was reported that harvest with combine-harvester was possible only if the quinoa plant is mono-stemmed and about 1-1.2 m high (Gomez Pando et al., 2016). In Denmark, the optimal harvest date was considered to be when the panicle was turning brown (if harvesting is done by swathing) or when panicle had already turned brown when harvest was done with combine-harvester (Jacobsen et al., 1994).

Environmental impact 

Threat for food security in the countries of origin

Since the late 20th century, quinoa grain has attracted worldwide attention due to its ability to produce high protein grains under ecologically extreme conditions, making it an potentially important crop for the diversification of future agricultural systems in different parts of the world. However, this growing worldwide demand for quinoa, combined with an insufficient supply from quinoa-producing South American countries, has resulted in increased prices in the grain's native countries, making it unaffordable for local populations and threatening their food security (Blythman, 2013).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 


There have been numerous reviews of the nutritional value of quinoa for human food (for instance Abugoch James, 2009; Ahamed et al., 1998; Alvarez-Jubete et al., 2009; Cardozo et al., 1979; Nowak et al., 2016). The quinoa grain has a relatively high protein content (about 14-15% DM) with low amounts of fibre (about 3% DM) and ash (< 4%). The protein is particulary rich in lysine (about 4.7% of the protein). Generally, it compares favourably to other "true" cereal grains, and is sometimes considered to be nutritionally superior (Ahamed et al., 1998). However, its composition seems to be extremely variable: reported protein values range from 9% to more than 20%, and the lysine content of the protein ranges from to a low 2.4 g/16 g N to a very high 6.7 g/16 N. This is probably due both to its broad genetic diversity (Nowak et al., 2016) and to very diverse cultural and post-harvest conditions. Besides, because it is primarily a food grain, information about feed-specific analysis, such as fibre values, is lacking.


Quinoa foliage is generally rich in protein (about 19% DM, ranging from 11 to more than 30% DM) with a moderate content of fibre (ADF 21% DM). In a comparison of 18 varieties, protein content varied between 16 and 21% (DM) and the NDF varied between 55 to 64% DM (Bañuelos Tavares et al., 1995). Another trial found that the protein content decreased from 26 to 17% between 9 and 17 weeks after sowing, (von Rütte, 1988). Quinoa foliage is extremely rich in mineral matter, with values over 30% DM.

Crop residues

Quinoa threshing results in several crop residues. Stover ("quiri" in Quechua) is a mixture of stems and dry leaves with a low protein content (7.5% DM) and a high crude fibre content (43% DM). Chaff ("Jipi" in Quechua) contains about 11% DM of protein and was reported to be comparable to a good bran (Cardozo et al., 1979).

Potential constraints 


Quinoa grain contains antinutritional factors, notably saponins, tannins, protease inhibitors and phytic acid (Arendt et al., 2013). The varieties that have been developed to respond to the increasing demand of quinoa are mainly of the bitter type and contain high levels of saponins (Quiroga et al., 2015).


Saponins are glyclosides that give bitter taste and astringence and are generally considered as antinutritional substances, though they can also have beneficial effects (Hill, 2003). Quinoa contains variable amounts of saponins in the seed coat, depending on genotype and conditions of cultivation: levels ranging from 0.02 to 2.3% have been reported (Arendt et al., 2013; Hill, 2003). Quinoa varieties containing more than 0.11% free saponin are called "bitter varieties", while others are called "sweet" (Arendt et al., 2013). The presence of saponins is known to depress growth in monogastric animals when they are fed non-processed quinoa grain. As modern quinoa cultivars are mainly of the bitter type, it is necessary to remove saponin from the seeds (see Processes) to alleviate bitterness and antinutritional effects. 

Saponins can also have beneficial effects as their detergent activity increases the permeability of the intestinal mucosa and improves the uptake of substances that are not usually absorbed in the intestine like drugs; they have antifungal activity; they lower cholesterol in blood. In ruminants, the use of saponin may decrease the risk of bloat (Hill, 2003). Saponins have been found to have molluscicide effect: saponins extracted from quinoa bran has been -used to control the invasive aquatic snail Pomacea maculata in the Ebro Delta, in Spain. Quinoa saponins used at 7-8 ppm killed about 90% of snails in rice fieldswithout affecting fish, crustaceans or algae (Castillo-Ruiz et al., 2018).

Phytic acid

Quinoa grain has been reported to contains phytic acid in the 1.05-1.35 % range, though these amounts are similar to those found in "true" cereals (Koziol, 1992; Arendt et al., 2013).


Oxalates and saponins

Quinoa leaves contain very high levels of oxalates. In India, oxalates content ranging from 9 to 14% DM have been reported (Prakash et al., 1993). Oxalates are known to have toxic effects, by damaging kidney tubules and causing hypocalcaemia (Duncan et al., 1997), but no such effects have been reported with quinoa foliage.

Quinoa leaves contain saponins (0.13–0.17 g/kg dry matter) that are produced rather late during plant development (Mastebroek et al., 2000), but in a much lower amounts than in the seeds. Saponin was reported to act as a deterrent in the use of quinoa leaves for fodder and vegetable purposes (Bhargava et al., 2008).


Quinoa is primarily grown for human food, but the grain, foliage and crop residues are occasionally fed to livestock.


An early trial reported in vivo digestibilities obtained in sheep of 81%, 67% and 85% for protein, crude fibre and NFE respectively, resulting in an estimated ME value of 12.4 MJ/kg similar to that of barley (Ugarte, 1956 cited by Cardozo et al., 1979).

Feeding calves with ground quinoa grain in mixture with barley (ratio: 0.2/1.8 as fed) resulted in higher growth rates (1.33 vs 0.68-0.80 kg/d) than with barley alone or than with other mixtures like wheat/barley or broad beans/barley mixed at the same ratio. It reduced the number of days necessary for calves to reach their commercial weight (Martinez Claure, 1954 cited by Cardozo et al., 1979).

By-products and crop residues

Stover and chaff, two by-products of quinoa threshing were reported to be used for calves fattening around the Titicaca Lake in Peru and Bolivia (Cardozo et al., 1979). Lambs fed on kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) could be valuably supplemented with 20% quinoa crop residues (chaff, bran etc.): voluntary feed intake, final weight and feed conversion ratio were improved. These improvements were accompanied by lower gas production in the rumen, suggesting a better microbial activity and less losses of energy (Nuñez Torres et al., 2018). Ground quinoa was successfully used in the supplementary feed (200 g/day) offered to grazing ewes in the Altiplano, an area where forages are scarce. Growth performance of ewes fed on ground quinoa stover were comparable to those of ewes fed on green or dry barley-based feed. Comparable performance were obtained when ewes were fed on quinoa bran vs barley hay or oats hay. However, the level of quinoa stover was very variable in the supplementary feed (from 35 to 65%), making the results on performance poorly reliable but demonstrating that including quinoa stover could be economically valuable (Martinez Claure, 1954 cited by Cardozo et al., 1979).


The quinoa plant may provide fresh forage for ruminants in places where other forages are scarce, and it contains enough protein and dry matter to provide valuable forage while allowing better grain harvest with the remaining plants (Gonzalez et al., 2016).


The in sacco DM digestibility of fresh quinoa forage was in the the 55-74% range: precocious and intermediate varieties were more digestible than late season ones (66, 63 and 59% respectively) (Bañuelos Tavares et al., 1995).


When quinoa hay from two ecotypes (Altiplano and southern Chile) were compared to alfalfa hay for goat feeding, no difference in DM intake was observed but goats tended to prefer alfalfa hay. The DM digestibility of the Altiplano ecotype was similar to that of alfalfa (72 vs 70%). Protein digestibility was higher for alfalfa hay than for quinoa hay (84% vs 78-67%) but NDF digestibility was lower for alfalfa than for quinoa (49.3 vs 62-57%). Weight gain was similar for alfalfa and the Altiplano ecotype, but the goats fed the southern Chile ecotype lost weight on the overall period. It was concluded that the Altiplano ecotype could be a good forage for goats where forage is scarce (Ortiz Munizaga, 2009).


In Bolivia, silage made of quinoa alone or quinoa with barley (75:25) and fed a supplement to grazing lambs was more consumed and yielded better weight gain than when the lambs were supplemented with maize stover (Bilbao la Vieja Gutiérrez, 1995, cited by Blanco Callisaya, 2015).



Pigs fed unwashed quinoa grain (thus still containing saponin) had depressed growth and development (Cardozo et al., 1979). Washed quinoa grain was included at 30 and 50% in piglets diet to replace maize grain without signinficant difference in growth performance (Gandarillas et al., 1968). In 8-week old piglets fed on concentrate basal diet, quinoa flour was used to replace 5 or 10% cereals during 5 weeks. No differences were reported in final weight or daily weight gain but the feed conversion ration was adversely altered (from 3.6 to 4.6) thus advocating for a low level of replacement: 5% (Diaz et al., 1995).

Crop residues

Quinoa crop residues such as chaff and gleanings from threshing have been reported to be fed to pigs (Göhl, 1982).


Based on its chemical composition, quinoa has a potential interest in poultry nutrition, with high protein and energy contents. The digestibility of amino acids is within the range of most feed ingredients although it is quite low for threonine or valine (Olukosi et al., 2019). A main concern could be the presence of antinutritional factors in some varieties. In a toxicity study were young chicks were fed with high levels of quinoa (80% to 96%), high mortality was recorded for raw quinoa while improvements were obtained with dehulled seeds or washed seeds (Improta et al., 2001).



In several studies, performance obtained with raw quinoa grain was lower than that of the control. Feed intake and growth performance decreased when increasing levels of quinoa from 10 to 40% of the diet (Jacobsen et al., 1997; Mosquera et al., 2009). High levels of raw quinoa (50%) led to a 25% decrease in growth performance and feed intake (Cardozo et al., 1961). However, in other studies, moderate levels of quinoa could be used without adverse effects on performance (Huaman Torres, 2017; Mosquera et al., 2009). These contradictory results could be due to the antinutritional factors in the raw seeds. Indeed, cooking quinoa could lead to the use of 50% inclusion level without negative effects on growth but an increase in feed intake (Cardozo et al., 1961). Similarly, pelleting diets with 15% raw quinoa allowed a low (non significant) decrease in growth performance (Jacobsen et al., 1997). However, dehulling quinoa removed efficiently saponins and bitterness but failed to restore performance of diets with 20% or 40% quinoa (Jacobsen et al., 1997). Simple washing of quinoa removed saponins but did not alleviate the negative effect of raw seeds (Cardozo et al., 1961). This suggest that saponins are not the only cause of the degradation of performance observed in various conditions. These results suggest to limit raw quinoa inclusion to a maximum of 10% in broiler diets. Higher incorporation could be used with cooked quinoa.


Germ fraction of seeds, obtained by screening the hulls obtained in dehulling quinoa, supported good performance of broilers when used at 5% in diets (Jacobsen et al., 1997).


Quinoa was tested in laying hens in substitution for maize. Egg production was not affected with 50% or 100% replacement of maize, but feed intake was significantly reduced (-10% to 14%), leading to a lower body weight after 16 weeks. It is therefore advisable to use levels of quinoa limited to 15-20% in layer diets, and/or to apply a thermal treatment (Johnston et al., 2006a). The high polyunsaturated fatty acid content in quinoa promoted higher omega-3 levels in egg yolk when laying hens were fed with quinoa (Johnston et al., 2006b).

Pasture with quinoa was tested in free-range layers supported adequate performance althouh high quinoa plants had to be bent to make the seeds accessible to the hens (Horsted et al., 2007).



Different studies have been conducted to evaluate the possibility of introducing quinoa grain in rabbit diets (Silva Rodriguez, 2017; Crizon Navarrete et al., 1991). Provided the ration is balanced, quinoa may be introduced safely in rabbit diets up to 30% (not tested for higher levels) and, thanks to its high protein content, it may completely replace cereals such as maize in the diet, and part of protein sources (oil seed meals, fish meal,…). However, unlike true cereals, quinoa proteins are relatively deficient in sulfur amino acids (only 60 to 90% of requirements according to the different authors) and rich in lysine (about 110 to 150% of requirements according to authors).


Dried quinoa forage at full bloom stage could fully replace dehydrated alfalfa in the diet of growing-finishing rabbits, without significant modification of growth rate, feed efficiency or slaughter yield (Primero et al., 2007). Since quinoa hay is suitable for feeding ruminants such as dairy cattle (Ticona Taipe, 2017), dried quinoa forage must be considered as suitable for rabbits as well.


Rainbow trout (Onchorynchus mykiss)

In an experiment aiming at assessing apparent digestibility coefficient of different Peruvian feedstuffs (jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas), kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule Aellen), kiwicha (Amaranthus caudatus L), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), and sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L)), Junvenile rainbow trouts could be fed on commercial diets including 30% of these alternative feedstuffs during 25 days. Apparent digestibility coefficient of DM, OM, CP were respectively 69.7%, 72.9%; 90.3% for quinoa meal and its digestible energy was 2.95 Mcal/kg. Quinoa meal ranked 3rd among the 6 feedstuffs assessed and was thus considered a potential feed for juvenile rainbow trout (Ortiz-Chura et al., 2018)


In an attempt to replace fishmeal in Litopenaeus vannamei diets,  amaranth meal and quinoa meal were included at increasing levels (15; 25; 35; and  45% replacement of fishmeal). Quinoa meal inclusion resulted in similar specific growth rates in shrimps compared to those fed on control. Feed conversion ratio was unchanged and about 3.13. Growth rates of shrimps fed on quinoa were always better than those with amaranth meal and it was concluded that quinoa meal could replace up to 45% fishmeal in shrimp diets (Molina-Poveda et al., 2015).


Shrimps (Litopenaeus vannamei)

Quinoa grain incluedd at 30% dietary level (DM basis) could replace 45% fish meal in the diet of shrimps (Litopenaeus vannamei) without reducing DM or protein apparent digestibilities of the diet and with satisfactory shrimp growth performance (Molina Poveda, 2015).

Other species 

Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus)

Guinea pigs are native of the Andes where they are raised for food, and several trials have assessed quinoa as a local feed ingredient to feed guinea pigs. In Bolivia, guinea pigs were fed on 30 and 60% quinoa bran (resulting from dry or wet extraction of saponins) to replace wheat bran. Animals receiving 30% of quinoa bran had satisfactory weight comparable to or even slightly higher (7.8 g/day for quinoa bran resulting from dry extraction and 7.62 g/day for quinoa bran resulting from the wet method) than those of guinea pigs fed on wheat bran (7.35 g/day). Feed conversion ratio at 30% quinoa bran was lower than that of the control. Higher inclusion (60%) of quinoa bran reduced feed intake (16.5g/day vs. 21.34 g/day at 30% and 21.25 g/day for the control) and weight gains. The feed conversion ration was negatively altered. This could be attributed to the lower palatability of the feed with high amount of quinoa bran. It was suggested to include 30% quinoa bran to replace wheat bran in the diet of guinea pigs as it could also lower the load of parasites in the guinea pig intestinal tract thanks to the presence of saponins (Aduviri Paredes, 2006).

In Ecuador, an undefined quinoa crop residue included at 40% in the diets of growing or fattening guinea pigs resulted in higher final weight, higher daily weight gain during the growing phase and fattening phases. Feed conversion ratios on the two periods were respectively 4.5 and 8.33 and the average value was lower than the value obtained with the control. Cost analysis showed it could be economically profitable to include between 40 and 60% of quinoa crop residue in the diets of guinea pigs (Tuquinga Tuquinga, 2011)

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Note: the energy values for monogastrics are estimates that suppose that the grain was deprived of saponins

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 88.2 2.3 84.8 92.2 15  
Crude protein % DM 13.6 2.5 9.2 20.4 36  
Crude fibre % DM 3 2.3 1.2 10.3 14  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 15.8         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 4.1         *
Lignin % DM 1.3         *
Ether extract % DM 7 2.3 4.8 14.5 15  
Ash % DM 3.7 1.3 2.4 7.1 15  
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 61.6   58.1 64.8 4  
Starch (enzymatic) % DM 64.2       1  
Total sugars % DM 3.5          
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.1         *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine g/16g N 4 0.8 2.6 5.7 28  
Arginine g/16g N 7.5 1.7 3.7 10.9 28  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 8.8 2.1 4.3 12 28  
Cystine g/16g N 1.8   1.5 2.2 3  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 12.6 2.6 7.4 18 28  
Glycine g/16g N 5.2 0.9 3.4 7.1 28  
Histidine g/16g N 2.7 0.6 1.4 3.8 28  
Isoleucine g/16g N 2.9 1.1 1.7 7.4 28  
Leucine g/16g N 6 1.1 3.8 7.5 28  
Lysine g/16g N 4.7 1 2.4 6.7 29  
Methionine g/16g N 1.5 0.3 0.7 2.3 29  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 3.3         *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 3.6 0.7 2.3 4.6 28  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 6.3       1 *
Proline g/16g N 4.2 2.1 2.2 9.4 28  
Serine g/16g N 4.3 0.9 2.6 5.9 28  
Threonine g/16g N 3.4 0.6 2.1 4.6 29  
Tryptophan g/16g N 0.8 0.2 0.6 1.1 20  
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.7 0.5 1.9 3.6 28  
Valine g/16g N 3.7 0.9 2.2 6 28  
Fatty acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Myristic acid C14:0 % fatty acids 0.5 0.6 0 1.7 9  
Palmitic acid C16:0 % fatty acids 10.6 6.3 1.8 24.3 10  
Palmitoleic acid C16:1 % fatty acids 0.2 0.4 0.03 1.1 7  
Stearic acid C18:0 % fatty acids 0.7 0.2 0.4 1.1 10  
Oleic acid C18:1 % fatty acids 25.6 4.2 18.7 31.7 10  
Linoleic acid C18:2 % fatty acids 47.5 5.9 38.9 54.2 10  
Linolenic acid C18:3 % fatty acids 6 2.4 2.3 8.8 9  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.8 4 0.3 11.4 7  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3.9 1 2.4 5 5  
Potassium g/kg DM 18.3 24 0.09 66.3 6  
Sodium g/kg DM 12.08 28.11 0.11 69.44 6  
Chlorine g/kg DM 1.5   1.1 2.3 3  
Magnesium g/kg DM 3.3 2.5 1.5 8.4 6  
Sulfur g/kg DM 1.9   1.5 2.2 3  
Manganese mg/kg DM 31 13 19 46 5  
Zinc mg/kg DM 33 34 12 108 7  
Copper mg/kg DM 31 57 3 134 5  
Iron mg/kg DM 182 290 30 836 7  
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 84.8         *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 16.2         *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 15.7         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 12.4         *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 82.5         *
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 15.4         *
AMEn broiler MJ/kg DM 15.1         *
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 88.1         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 86.1         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.7         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 71.5       1 *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 15.4         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 14.9         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 80.5         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 68.1         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alvarez-Jubete et al., 2009; Bhargava et al., 2008; De Bruin, 1964; De Bruin, 1964; Dini et al., 1992; Gonzalez et al., 2011; Jacobsen et al., 1997; Miranda et al., 2012; Olukosi et al., 2019; Prakash et al., 1993; Stikic et al., 2012; Ugarte, 1956

Last updated on 11/11/2019 17:13:30

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 13.8 2.6 9 18.9 24  
Crude protein % DM 18.8 5.1 11.2 31.1 46  
Crude fibre % DM 18.7       1 *
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 45.8 12.7 26.6 63.9 41  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 21.5 8 9 35 23  
Ether extract % DM 4.4       1  
Ash % DM 26.4 5.8 14.7 33.6 7  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 15.4         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 16 7.4 10.1 30 25  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.4 0.5 2 3 8  
Potassium g/kg DM 75.7 17.1 20.8 99.3 25  
Sodium g/kg DM 61.94 37.42 10.65 152 17  
Magnesium g/kg DM 9.2 2.1 5.9 16 25  
Zinc mg/kg DM 200 92 58 362 17  
Copper mg/kg DM 121 9 104 138 17  
Iron mg/kg DM 847 24 792 894 17  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 75 8 62 85 12  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 81.8         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 78.2         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.1         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.5         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 7.4         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 47.7         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Bañuelos-Tavares et al., 1995; Baskota et al., 2017; Bhargava et al., 2008; Gonzalez et al., 2016; Podkówka et al., 2018; Prakash et al., 1993

Last updated on 11/11/2019 17:49:41

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Bastianelli D., Lebas F., 2021. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/229 Last updated on April 8, 2021, 11:13