Quinoa Mother-Baby Trials
On-farm participatory action research
While quinoa production is expanding rapidly in Rwanda, the selection and development of regionally appropriate varieties are nascent. QuinoaHub in collaboration with the Washington State University's Sustainable Seed Systems Lab is working to identify genotypes with high agronomic performance and nutritional quality across a range of environments in Rwanda. This is done through A Mother-Baby Trial Design.
What are Mother-Baby Trials?
Mother & Baby Trials (MBT) is a trial design, and one approach to conducting on-farm participatory action research. The mother and baby trial (MBT) design uses an incomplete block design to capture regional adaptability. Most commonly used in participatory plant breeding, the MBT approach links researcher-led “mother” trials, where all crop factors are evaluated in a replicated design, to farmer-led “baby” trials (non-replicated) to capture diverse management practices and environmental conditions.
Mother & Baby trials are designed to facilitate conversations among farmers, extension, and researchers. This is essential in order to develop, assess, and test various agronomic practices in a manner that incorporates diverse farmer priorities, and can evaluate performance across a range of management practices and edaphic conditions in a quantifiable and repeatable manner.
Our Quinoa Mother-Baby Trials in Rwanda
Farmers across Ngoma and Kirehe Districts, Eastern Province of Rwanda are growing out several varieties of quinoa on their farms. They manage these trials and report back on how they perform.
Farmers also provide insight into what traits are most important to prioritize when selecting varieties and potential roadblocks that can occur when marketing a new crop.
Our Research team facilitates field trials, conducts farmer interviews, create consumer surveys, provides grower support, and works in the lab to determine the nutritional characteristics and end-use quality of different quinoa varieties.
Our Current 3-Year MBT Field Design
A three-year study using a Mother-Baby design was established in February 2021 to identify novel high-performing genotypes for Rwandan production systems. This study aimed to:
Identify quinoa genotypes with high agronomic performance and nutritional quality across a range of environments in Rwanda.
Work with quinoa farmers to identify priority traits for variety selection and development.
In Season B 2021 (starting in February) a replicated variety trial (Mother Trial) with thirty lines of interest from a 2020 field evaluation of the quinoa world collection was planted in the Musanze District in the Northern Province. A subset of six lines from the Mother Trial was planted in unreplicated on-farm trials (Baby Trials) for evaluation by quinoa farmers. Each of the 50 farmers planted out three experimental and one control line for a total of 25 on-farm replications per baby trial line. Questionnaires evaluating each line and the importance of quinoa traits were completed by each farmer throughout the season.
In Season B of 2022 (starting in February) and Season A of 2023 (starting September 2022), we included maize in our baby trial. The research trials on quinoa baby lines and maize are being conducted in Ngoma and Kirehe Districts, Eastern Province of Rwanda. Each of the 50 farmers growing quinoa baby-lines planted an additional plot of hybrid maize variety ‘AMINIKA’ commonly grown in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. The farmers who participated in the quinoa baby trials and maize research trials are 50 farmers: 35 farmers from Ngoma District and 15 farmers from Kirehe District. In Ngoma District, the farms are distributed across 3 Sectors, 10 Cells, and 15 Villages. In Kirehe District the farms are distributed across 3 Sectors, 4 Cells, and 6 Villages. Farmers are involved in all the activities of the trials from planting to harvesting, they are also involved in other postharvest activities. Among the 50 farmers growing quinoa baby line and maize, 28 are women and 22 are men.
Results from the farmers' survey as well as the yield, protein content, amino acid composition, and mineral content of the Mother and Baby Trials will be presented in the upcoming research publications.