Newswise — October 14, 2019 — Crops like quinoa, oat and emmer are important for healthy, diverse diets. They also help diversify income streams for farmers, and the crop rotation (changing crops from year-to-year) benefits soils.

However, there is little research funding for these crops. The main funding goes to wheat, corn, and soy. “From a research standpoint, these ‘underutilized’ crops have agronomic and dietary importance to a significant number of people worldwide or in specific regions,” says Kevin Murphy.

To address this issue and spread scientific knowledge, Murphy and colleagues have organized a symposium titled “Celebrating the Health and Nutritional Potential of Underutilized Crop Species.” The symposium is part of the Embracing the Digital Environment ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. The symposium will run on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

“Over time, the lack of research and development in these crops makes them less competitive in a global market,” says Murphy. “They become less competitive, and farmers stop growing them. This can cause varieties to be lost.”

Oats are the topic of JoJo Heuschele’s presentation. With new research, crop breeders now can look for markers which predict the protein quality of oat grains, as well as several micronutrients and folic acid.

Mary Guttieri will discuss wild emmer, an ancestor of more common wheat varieties on the market today. Emmer has the potential to increase grain protein; however, the desirable characteristics of wild emmer also come with some fragility in the grain that affect harvest and processing.

Quinoa is a grain that has all nine amino acids. It’s not quite a complete protein, though, because certain amino acids are in low amounts. Evan Craine will present results from studies about the nutritional quality of a quinoa germplasm collection available for global expansion.

Nirit Bernstein will discuss recent findings on the chemical and physical effects on medical cannabis chemistry and standardization. More than 600 phytochemicals have been identified in cannabis to date.

The central High Plains are a good fit for farmers who chose to grow millet in their rotations. Although millet is widely used in bird feed and it is vitally important for those following a gluten-free diet, more ready-to-use products should be developed. Dipak Santra will discuss the potential of growing the millet industry in the U.S.  

For information about the “Celebrating the Health and Nutritional Potential of Underutilized Crop Species” symposium, visit

For more information about the Embracing the Digital Environment 2019 meetingvisit are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by Oct. 25, 2019 is required. Visit for registration information.

To speak with one of the scientists, contact Susan V. Fisk, 608-273-8091, [email protected] to arrange an interview.