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Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is a new crop, presently being tested in North Europe, where its close relative fat hen (C. album) is already a well-known weed species. In the Iron Age the European fat hen had status of a secondary crop, either collected or cultivated. Therefore the present day introduction of quinoa to Northern Europe is based on the utilization of a closely related species in ancient times.
Quinoa is one of the oldest, existing crops, which was first detected by Europeans when Columbus conquered South America in the beginning of the 16th century.
Quinoa was, however, not brought to Europe, so the crop literally remained unknown outside the Andean countries until the late 1970s, first in the USA, then in England, Denmark and the Netherlands, where studies on the crop were initiated, followed by a further spread with trials in Europe and the rest of the world. Even so, there is at present very little commercial production of quinoa outside the Andes, but it is increasing and the potential for further expansion of the global production is significant. According to the FAO, quinoa is regarded as a new world staple and predicted to spread fast across the globe (FAO 2013).
Due to the increasing global demand for quinoa, both as an Andean export commodity and for agricultural development purposes, there is huge interest in testing quinoa for growing under a range of environmental and geographical conditions.
Among the environments most distanced from the crops’ natural conditions is Northern Europe. Research work performed in Europe, from south to north, has demonstrated the potential of quinoa also to be produced under European conditions, with varieties adapted to longer days, more humid environment and intensive mechanization.