College of Agriculture

Amaranth Germination and Yields in California’s Central Sacramento Valley

Diana Elmore, Richard Baldy, Wes Patton, Patricia Delwiche


The increase in human consumption of amaranth in the forms of flour, pasta, bread, and cereal grain affords growers the opportunity to produce this lysine and tryptophan-rich grain as an alternative to other grain crops. This experiment compares the germination, grain production, and days to harvest of six varieties of amaranth.

Materials and Methods

The germination and field trials were preformed at the Paul Byrne Memorial Agriculture Teaching and Research Center, Chico, California. Five varieties were of Amaranthus. cruentus: 1) Hopi, 2) Alegria, 3) Southern, 4) Chihuahuan, 5) Mexican Grain. The sixth variety, Guarijio, was a A. hypochondriacus x A. hybridus hybrid. The seeds were purchased from Native Seeds/Search, Tucson, Arizona.

Germination trial

To test seed germination, 50 seeds per variety were spread on a moist paper towel and then placed inside plastic bags on Oct. 28, 1997 and left in a greenhouse until Nov. 3, when we scored them for radicle emergence.

To prepare for the field trial we seeded in seedling trays tm on January 29, 1998 with five to six seeds per cell. The cells were filled with planting mix, which contained Osmocote tm 17-6-10 fertilizer. Between seeding and transplanting the smaller plants were removed. The seedlings remained in the greenhouse from March 29th through April 7th, when they averaged 15cm in height and we transplanted them into hand tilled Vina loam soil. Four seedlings were placed at the corners of 1.2 X 1 .2m2 plots with a fifth seedling in the center of the plot. Planting holes were 5cm deep. The plots were arranged in a Randomized Block Design. Plots were at the ends of larger research plots maintained by students in an introductory plant science class. Two to three weeks after planting, students replaced missing amaranth plants with ones from the original seed planting and they continued to sprinkler irrigate and weed the plots weekly. We hand harvested the above ground parts of all plants between July 12th and 25th. We air dried the plants, then separated the seeds from the stems and leaves. Statistical analysis was done using SYSTAT software.


The results of the germination trial showed Mexican to have the lowest rate at 23%, with the other varieties ranging between 62% and 98%.  Southern did not produce seeds, but the grain yields of the other varieties are shown in Figure 1.  The range of days to harvest was between 172 and 185, an insignificant difference.


The Rodale Research Center in Pennsylvania (1982) reported amaranth grain yields of approximately 45 varieties over four years averaged between "0.9 and 2.4 metric tons per hectare." In a Guatemalan study Bressani et al (1987) found yields of 14 varieties ranged from 0.85 to 4.06 metric tonnes per hectare. The yields for our experiment ranged between 85.76 gm/m2 and 14.78 gm/m2, or 0.15 to 0.85 metric tonnes per hectare.

The lower yields in Chico may be due to our testing different varieties than those of the above mentioned studies, neither of which reported varieties tested. Another possible cause for low yields may have been the transplanting of the plants before their normal time of growth.  A light frost in April may have damaged some plants. All varieties grew less than described by Native Seed Search and by local gardeners who have grown some of the varieties.  It is unlikely that mineral deficiencies account for the differences between the studies. Soil samples taken at the end of our trial showed no mineral deficiencies.

Alegria, Hopi Red Dye, and Mexican Grain warrant more investigation for growing in this area, whereas the lower yielding Southern, Chihuahuan, and Guarijio, appear less promising. Many of the Guarijio plants had immature seed heads at harvest. Also, the Guarijio variety showed fasciation in several plants, while some of the Alegria plants had kinky stems that would hinder hand cleaning, as the stems tended to catch on the fingers. Separating the seeds from stems and leaves was harder with these two varieties.

Further research could include repeating the trial for additional years to determine year to year variation.


We wish to acknowledge the assistance of students in the Agri 230 and Plant Science 2 classes.


Ricardo Bressani, J. M. Gonzales, J. Zuniga, M. Breuner and L. G. Elias. 1987.

Yield, Selected Chemical Composition and Nutritive Value of 14 Selections of Amaranth Grain Representing Four Species. J. Sci. Food Agric. vol. 38. Pp. 347-356.

Charles S. Kauffman, Peggy Wagoner Hans. 1982. Grain Amaranth: An Overview of Research And Production Methods. Rodale Research Center. Aug. 1982.