1. Objectives

Quinoa, a super crop native to the Andes region of South America, is expected to become a trump card for solving the world's food and nutrition problems, not only because of its extremely high nutritional value and excellent nutritional balance, but also because of its high adaptability to various adverse environments such as drought and salt damage. However, quinoa production is currently under threat due to frequent extreme weather events and soil erosion caused by the expansion of farmland. Therefore, the goal of this research project is to develop and disseminate cultivation technology for quinoa that is resilient to climate change while preventing soil degradation by improving fallow land management and integrated quinoa-llama system, in addition to preparing quinoa genetic resources and developing resilience-enhancing breeding materials. Furthermore, in the future, through the research results of this project, we aim to contribute to global issues such as global food and nutrition problems and the conservation of sustainable agricultural ecosystems.

2. Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This research project will contribute to SDG 2 (zero hunger) by developing resilience-enhancing breeding materials for quinoa and establishing a cultivation system for quinoa that is highly productive and resilient to climate change. We will accelerate the development of resilience-enhancing breeding materials by collecting a large number of genetic resources, including indigenous quinoa lines from Bolivia, where quinoa originated, and related species of quinoa, and developing genotypic information on these genetic resources and phenotypic information on important traits such as flowering characteristics, frost resistance, and downy mildew resistance. Another goal is to search for indigenous biological resources that can be used as bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides for pest control, and to utilize them in the production of high quality quinoa.

In addition, our research project will contribute to SDG 15 (Let's also protect the richness of land). In the southern Altiplano (Bolivia's highland plateau at about 4,000 meters above sea level), where our main research focus is, quinoa is the only crop that can be grown. Instead, quinoa is cultivated once every three to five years, and there is a lot of fallow land. By identifying indigenous plant species that are useful in preventing soil erosion in fallow areas and developing a vegetation management system that utilizes these indigenous plant species, we aim to prevent soil degradation and conserve the agroecosystem, which is a problem in quinoa-growing areas.

3. Organization of the research

This research project is an international joint research project between Japan and Bolivia. On the Japanese side, in addition to the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), which is the representative institution, Kyoto University, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine will participate in the project. On the Bolivian side, in addition to the University of San Andrés (UMSA), which is the representative institution, the Foundation for the Promotion and Research of Andean Products (Fundación para la Promoción e Investigación de Productos Andinos; PROINPA), which is involved in the research and dissemination of Andean crops, will participate. The researchers from each institution will jointly promote the research on projects 1 to 4 by utilizing their respective expertise, and conduct research on the development and dissemination of resilience-enhancing production technology for quinoa, a highly nutritious crop.

4. Research Subjects

Subject 1: Management of genetic resources and establishment of genome breeding system.

Based on previous preliminary research, we will collect and store more than 300 lines covering a wide genetic variation of Bolivian quinoa in addition to the genetic resources stored by PROINPA (120 lines, including quinoa cultivars and their wild relatives). We develop a seed renewal manual based on information on quinoa seed longevity and establish a sustainable genetic resource storage system. Next, we conduct phenotypic and genotypic analyses to support the use of genetic resources and facilitate the development of resilience-enhancing varieties. The collected germplasm is evaluated for basic agronomic characteristics, such as main stem length, number of branches, stem diameter, thousand grain weight, seed color, flower color, stem color, days to flowering, days to maturity (using yellowing of the lower main leaf just below the ear as a guide) and seed dormancy. The resistance to frost and mildew damage in the field, if any, will also be investigated. The nucleotide sequence of the germplasm is analyzed by next generation sequencing to promote efficient quinoa breeding using Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) and Marker Assisted Selection (MAS). These genotypes and phenotype information intend to be populated into an integrated database of quinoa genetic resources. In addition to the collection of cultivated quinoa and its wild relatives, we develop a Nested Association Mapping (NAM) population based on large-seeded cultivars to establish a foundation for rapid gene identification and genome breeding system.

Subject 2: Development of breeding materials enabling early-ripening and resilience enhancement.

We will develop resilience-enhanced quinoa varieties adapted to the Bolivian quinoa cultivation areas. In the past three surveys, Bolivian quinoa farmers requested early-maturing varieties that can circumvent early growing season when drought and frost damage frequently occur. Drought, salt, cold, and mildew resistance are also the breeding objectives of PROINPA. In order to identify promising genotypes and useful genetic factors, we establish an evaluation system for these target traits and develop mapping populations by crossing standard cultivars with prospective genetic resources. We take advantage of these genetic materials to accelerate the quinoa breeding program, and then aim to breed two or more resilience-enhanced variety candidates.

Subject 3: Development of cropping system for sustainable quinoa production.

We will improve the conventional quinoa production system and establish a sustainable quinoa production system that will increase quinoa productivity by 20% compared to the control plot in the experimental fields. We will develop technologies to link quinoa and llama farming and livestock production, such as improving quinoa productivity through the efficient use of dung from llamas, an important local livestock, and improving llama productivity through the processing and use of quinoa residue. The project will also develop an erosion prevention technique that will reduce soil erosion in quinoa-fallow area by 30% compared to the control area by utilizing the biological resources of native wild plant species, for which seed collection has now begun. During the project period, three native wild plant species will be identified that can help prevent soil erosion in quinoa-fallow areas and two native biological resources will be identified that can be used to control insect pests such as twirler moths and diseases such as downy mildew. In addition, we will isolate one line from native biological resources as a biofertilizer that can be used as the basis for sustainable quinoa production. We will also develop the basic framework for a quinoa growth and yield prediction model and develop farmers’ decision support system regarding planting time and compost application. The model to be developed uses spectral reflectance characteristics and is adaptable to environments other than Bolivia.

Subject 4: Establishment of extension network system.

In this project, we will focus on Social Networking Service (hereafter SNS), which is already widely used in Bolivia, even in rural areas, and will plan to build an interactive information transmission system using SNS. In coordination with the Bolivian counterpart organization, we will select two model sites that will serve as bases for the dissemination of the cropping technologies, and build cooperative relationships with farmers and local governments. We will survey the issues involved in PROINPA’s extension network system and then consider how to provide more appropriate quinoa information in terms of quality and quantity through the SNS, determining the direction for extension network system. From the third year, the technologies established in the project 1 to 3 will be transferred through the extension network system.

In addition, we will establish a foundation for the penetration of research results in the region through preparing a technical manual integrating the developed technologies and promoting dissemination activities by PROINPA as well as publicity and exhibition activities of the technologies through domestic and international organizations and the media. From the first year of the project, the project website will be launched to disseminate information, and the research results obtained will be disseminated internationally through the publication of papers and the holding of international symposia. Through this project, we will improve the research capability of Bolivia in related fields in terms of equipment and human resources, and establish an infrastructure for research and development on self-sustaining molecular genome breeding and sustainable production systems, as well as a long-term collaborative research system between the two countries.