Varieties groups by ecological adaptation zones
Quinoas can be divided into five major groups according to their ecological adaptation zones:
Dry valley (Junín) and humid valley (Cajamarca) quinoas
Valley quinoas can be distinguished between those grown in inter Andean valleys with irrigation, as occurs in Urubamba (Peru) and Cochabamba (Bolivia) and those grown under rainfed conditions such as in Huaraz, valle del Mantaro, Ayacucho and Abancay (Peru). The former reach a height of up to three metres.
There is also the impact of greater precipitation in northern Peru, extending to Ecuador and southern Colombia. In the area of Nariño, Colombia and northern Ecuador, there exists a tall ecotype with many branches, light green leaves and very white and sweet grains, which gave rise to the Nariño variety that is currently grown in Peru.
Altiplano quinoas (white around Lake Titicaca and coloured in the Suni agroecological zone)
Altiplano quinoas are also produced under variable conditions: low precipitation and favourable temperature climatic conditions like around Lake Titicaca, and in lakeside areas and gorges near to rivers where the Kcancolla, Blanca de Juli and Tahuaco varieties originate. Those that adapt to high plateau areas at 3 900 m.a.s.l. are the Cheweca, Ccoitu, Wariponcho, Chullpi and Witulla, with coloured panicles and able to resist lower temperatures.
Saltflat quinoas (southern Bolivia)
Quinoas in the saltflats (salares) group in southern Bolivia withstand extreme xerophytic conditions. Their initial development is made possible by being able to use the moisture in the holes made for sowing. Quinoa cultivation in this area follows a very special production system whereby the soil is left idle for four to eight years after harvesting. This period has been shortened in recent times, producing negative effects from the depletion of soil fertility.
Sea level quinoas (Chile)
Sea level quinoas are better adapted to humid conditions with more regular temperatures. They are mainly found at latitudes south of 30° S (Concepción and Valdivia, Chile).
Quinoas of the Yunga agroecological zone and subtropics (Bolivia)
Finally there is a very small group of quinoas that have adapted to the conditions of the agroecological zone of Yunga in Bolivia, at altitudes between 1 500 and 2 000 m.a.s.l., with a characteristic orange stem on maturity, the same as the perigonium. Their adaptation to subtropical climates allows them to adapt to higher precipitation and heat. Only one collection has been undertaken in Bolivia and specimens from this group grew satisfactorily in K'ayra, Cusco at 3 300 m.a.s.l., presenting a long vegetative period of more than 200 days.