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Rainfall. 300–1,100 mm around Lake Titicaca; requires moisture at the early growth stages, resists drought after establishment. The plants seem susceptible to excess humidity.
Altitude. Today, kaniwa is rarely cultivated below 3,800 m (below this, quinoa predominates). The upper limit is nearly 4,400 m in protected areas.
Low Temperature. Kaniwa is remarkably cold tolerant. It will germinate at 5°C, flower at 10°C, and mature seed at 15°C. Adult plants are unaffected by nightly frosts.
High Temperature. Midday temperatures in the altiplano are usually only 14–18°C, but kaniwa can withstand relatively warm conditions (up to 25°C) given sufficient soil moisture and air movement. It tolerates broad swings in temperature and high insolation.
Soil Type. Prefers an open, friable soil. Because of its short taproot, it seems particularly suited to shallow soils. It is successfully cultivated in soils ranging from pH 4.8–8.5, and shows some salt-tolerance.
Related Species. Kaniwa was long considered a weedy variety of quinoa, but chromosomal studies have confirmed that the two belong to separate species complexes (kaniwa has a chromosomal designation of 2n = 2x = 18; quinoa has 2n = 4x = 36).
The nearest morphological relatives are Chenopodium carnosulum
and C. scabricaule from Patagonia.
The greatest diversity of related species in South America (assignable to the same subsection of Chenopodium as kaniwa) is centered around Argentina's pampas and western highlands. However, the most common and widespread species is C. petiolare, which extends far into the Andes, and often grows interspersed with kaniwa. Although it produces little grain, it is “semiperennial,” and sometimes will produce seed over several seasons. C. petiolare, along with other kaniwa relatives, merits much further attention from botanists and agronomists.