ISSUE 6   June 18, 2009

BUCKWHEAT

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) is a broadleaf crop that is in the same plant family as rhubarb. Buckwheat is widely adapted to North Dakota and will grow under a range of soil conditions. It performs best in a cool, moist climate. Buckwheat is sensitive to frost both during and at the end of the growing season. Any stress during the season can reduce yield. Wind, heavy rainfall and excessive soil nitrogen may result in lodging of the buckwheat, which makes the crop difficult to harvest and may result in yield loss.

Buckwheat germinates quickly on a well-prepared, firm seedbed similar to that for flax or other small-seeded crops. Early to mid-June planting permits adequate control of several weed seedling flushes prior to seeding. Under good growing conditions, buckwheat will germinate and shade the ground quickly. Buckwheat can be seeded with a grain drill or air seeder at the rate of 40 to 50 pounds of pure live seed per acre. Buckwheat does not tiller; each seed produces a single stem that branches toward the top of the plant. Seeding depth should be 1 to 1.5 inches if the soil moisture for germination is adequate. Seeding deeper than 2 inches should be avoided.

Buckwheat has a taproot extending to a depth of 3 to 4 feet as well as numerous lateral roots. The root mass is about 3 percent of the total plant weight compared to 6 to 14 percent in cereal grains. Adequate soil moisture must be available from early July through August during the time the crop is flowering and producing seed in order to obtain good yields. Hot weather, drought, and wind during flowering can drastically reduce buckwheat yields by causing high levels of flower and seed abortion. Buckwheat flowers are self-sterile and need to be cross pollination. Bees, other insects, and wind are required to distribute pollen.

Buckwheat planting date trials were conducted at the Carrington Research Extension Center in 1994 and 1995. The varieties 'Mancan' and 'Manor' were planted at four dates: May 25 or 26, June 6, June 21 or 23. Across years and varieties, seed yield averaged 1410, 960, and 810 pounds per acre with late May, early June, and late June plantings, respectively. The data indicates that seed yield may be satisfactory with late-planted buckwheat, but yield is substantially reduced (40 percent) compared to late-May planting and the crop is at risk if an early frost occurs. In 2008, the Prosper location was not seeded till June 25 and still provided on average a yield of 1113 lb/a.

Table: 2008 Buckwheat yields, 2006-08 average, planting and harvest dates, at various ND locations.

 

Seed Yield (lb/a)

Variety

Lang

Carr

Will

Pros

Hett

Minot

Ave

Avg. 3 yr

Koma

1081

359

755

1044

765

2974

1165

1277

Mancan

1358

330

636

1141

649

3011

1188

1346

Manor

953

576

666

1154

762

2372

1081

1321

Mean

1131

422

689

1113

725

2786

1145

1315

LSD 0.05

NS

171

118

NS

NS

470

   

Planting

5/28

6/5

5/20

6/25

5/ 9

5/28

   

Harvest

10/1

9/17

9/ 30

10/ 9

9/19

9/ 26

Variety selection information can be found in the 2008 North Dakota Alternative Crop Variety Performance booklet at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/crops/a1105.pdf

Besides growing buckwheat for food production the crop can also be used as a cover and green manure crop since it can produce substantial amounts of dry matter. Up to 3 tons of dry matter per acre have been obtained after seven to eight weeks of growth. When disked or tilled under, the plant materials decay rapidly. The dense growth of buckwheat also tends to suppress weeds to some extent. Buckwheat as a green manure may also work when the intended main crop cannot be seeded due to various reasons. In this case buckwheat can be seeded later in the season as long as sufficient growth will occur before incorporation with fall tillage or the killing frost. If volunteer buckwheat becomes and issue in the succeeding crop, then the green manure crop of buckwheat should be terminated before it sets seed.

Reference: Buckwheat Production http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/crops/a687w.htm  


Buckwheat seed (photo by S. Hurst @
USDA-NRCS PLANTS database)

Hans Kandel
NDSU Extension Agronomist, Broadleaf crops
hans.kandel@ndsu.edu


NDSU Crop and Pest Report Home buttonTop of Page buttonTable of Contents buttonPrevious buttonNext button