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Information for Buckwheat Growers

Northeast Buckwheat Growers Newsletter

No. 9 June 2000
Edited by Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell NYSAES, Geneva NY

Manisoba in 2000
In a major change, the Birkett Mills will be contracting a new variety this year. For 2000, the company will be providing Manisoba seed to its contracted growers, replacing the older variety, Manor.

The mill ran extensive tests on Manisoba this winter to determine how to handle the larger average seed size (there are fewer small seeds). They also tested the grain for ease of dehulling, cooking times, and textural qualities to be certain that it would meet the demands of customers of Kasha and other buckwheat products.

Manisoba is being adopted because it was identified as superior to Manor in agronomic performance by Thomas Björkman at Cornell University. Manisoba stood out in trials of diverse types over the years from 1994 through 1998. It also performed well in commercial on-farm trials in 1997, 1998 and 1999. The project, supported by the Birkett Mills, and was in cooperation with Kade Research, which developed Manisoba. The next variety in the pipeline is called Koto.

Since Manisoba has slightly fewer seed per bushel, the seeding rate may need to be adjusted up a little from what you use with Manor.

Overall, Manisoba has better early growth and covers the ground better than Manor. It yields, on average, about 10% more by weight. The only drawback is that the test weight can be somewhat lower. The adoption of an improved variety that has been thoroughly tested for the Northeast represents a significant advance for buckwheat production here.

Watch out for waterlogging
Heavy rain after sowing can lead to weak stands of buckwheat. These weak stands can yield from nothing to a few hundred pounds per acre. Previous research in the Björkman lab has implicated seed rot in causing these poor stands. The plant is drastically weakened if the germinating seed is waterlogged for even a few hours.

This spring and early summer have been so wet in the Northeast that the risk of waterlogging after even a modest rain will be substantial. Prepare the ground and time the planting to help reduce this risk.

In 1999, we had the opposite situation. Drier soil and an absence of thunderstorms at planting made these weak stands rare. Generally, those who planted into sufficient moisture had a good crop. This observation suggests that seed rot has a dramatic impact in most years, and can often be to blame when plants are smaller than expected for a particular field and the combine runs for a long time before filling the bin.

Apron fungicide might be useful in reducing this seed rot. Research is underway to determine whether this product will be effective. In 1999, stands were excellent in both treated and untreated. Trials in 2000 are expected to be more telling.

Reducing the potential for seed rot through good soil management is the first thing to do. Apron may turn out to be an additional aid, but preventing the conditions that cause problems will always help. Good tilth, which prevents puddling in the surface layers, is the objective. Growers who have been successful have found the following practices to help:

  • Prepare the ground when the moisture is ideal. That often occurs in early to mid-June.
  • Use no-till or zone till to increase infiltration and minimize crusting.
  • Tile drain and subsoil on heavy soils that have the potential for high yields.

1999 Harvest
With the severe drought experienced in many parts of the Northeast in 1999, many crops had low yields. Buckwheat was a notable exception, turning in the largest yields in recent years. The high overall yield is attributed to much-reduced seed rot, described above. The sparse rain after sowing kept these major losses rare, and the relatively dry surface easily absorbed what did fall. Most fields sown ended up with a respectable yield.

Some growers had more than respectable yield, 25-35 bu/ac (the long-term state average is 15 bu/ac). What they had in common was sowing buckwheat on heavier land, using the clay soil's greater water-holding capacity. With the dry conditions, it really paid off to have good tilth, and to prepare the ground so that moisture was retained. The heavier soils worked up well during June, and were able to keep the buckwheat crop supplied with moisture through the whole season.

In Cornell trials, the Experiment Station farm yielded 40 bu/ac, while cooperators' fields yielded 14, 15 and 33 bu/ac.

Warner McCray in Sherman, Chautauqua Co., reported 30 bu/ac. His Langford soil is typical of much of the Southern Tier. Tiling and subsoiling have improved the drainage so that the crop is never stunted by waterlogging, yet the clay-y soil holds enough water to carry the crop through a dry season.

2000 Field Day moves
The location for the 2000 Field Day has not been set due to the weather. It will not be at the Experiment Station in Geneva, but will be at a site in the northern Finger Lakes managed by ACDS research. If you received this mailing, you will also get a postcard with the announcement once the crop is out of the ground. It will also be announced in Country Folks.
The date will be Tuesday, August 29, and the event will run from 1:00 to 3:30 as usual.

Note added: 459 Route 96 in Waterloo.
2 Miles east of Geneva Thruway exit at intersection with Bonnell Rd.

Covering the acres fast
Sowing into a good seedbed is a critical step in raising buckwheat, but there is often only a narrow planting window as the weather changes. Two western New York growers have taken different approaches. Tony Preshiel mixes seed and fertilizer and spreads it rapidly with a fertilizer spreader. To work it in so that it emerges uniformly, he uses a rolling cultivator with the teeth retracted almost all the way. This only disturbs the top inch of soil. He considers disking the seeds in completely unacceptable because the depth is too inconsistent for uniform emergence. Warner McCray takes a more conventional route, using a 30-foot drill. Both growers are able to plant over 100 acres in about a day and a half. Both say that timely sowing is essential to their success. With the short breaks between storms we are getting in 2000, taking advantage of the rare opportunities with ideal planting conditions will make a big difference.

How does wheat perform after a buckwheat crop?
I have heard varied reports about the performance of winter wheat sown after buckwheat harvest. Some have good experiences, finding the wheat germinating well in the loose soil, and a relatively weed-free stand going into the winter. Others find that the wheat does not grow as well as adjacent fields come spring. A research paper this year from Adrian N'Dayegamiye in Quebec showed that buckwheat doubled the wheat yield compared to bare ground (and clover tripled it). Please drop a line to the editor with your experiences, so we can sort this one out.

  • Abdallahi M. M., N'Dayegamiye A. 2000. Effects of green manures on soil physical and biological properties and on wheat yields and N uptake. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 80: 81-89.

Northeast buckwheat production
The Census of Agriculture was done in 1997. The results were recently reported.

The great Red River floods took the Dakotas out of their traditional top spot, to give NY and PA a tie for the states with the most farms planting buckwheat. However, the number of acres in buckwheat is much higher in those states.

State Farms acres bushels
NY 101 2,423 44,300
PA 101 1,587 30,800
OH 14 345 5,800
MD 10 166 3,155
WV 7 46 1,038
NH 3 3 11
ME 1 not reported
CT 1 not reported
Total 238 4,570 85,104

Buckwheat for health
Research continues to accumulate that buckwheat is good for your health. Jun Kayashita and his Japanese team have found that buckwheat protein reduces breast cancer tumors by suppressing estradiol concentrations.

Female rats were examined for the effects of being fed buckwheat protein extract (BWPE) on the development of mammary tumors caused by administration of 7,12-dimethylbenz(alpha)anthracene. The percentage of rats with palpable mammary tumors and serum estradiol were lower in the BWPE-fed animals than the casein-fed ones, implying that BWPE intake retarded the mammary carcinogenesis by lowering serum estradiol.

  • J. Kayashita, I. Shimaoka, M. Nakajoh, N. Kishida and N. Kato. 1999. Consumption of a buckwheat protein extract retards 7,12- dimethylbenz(alpha)anthracene-induced mammary carcinogenesis in rats. Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry 63:1837-1839

Buckwheat and nematodes
Turning in buckwheat green manure or crop residue is good for a lot of things. Recent research has shown that inhibiting nematodes is not one of them. Al- Rehiayani found that any green manure was helpful in cutting tomato nematode populations, but buckwheat was least effective of the ten they tried. Similarly, LaMondia found that buckwheat was the least effective rotation crop of four they tried for reducing root-knot nematode injury to strawberries. If you are managing rotations to keep nematodes in check, buckwheat will only be a neutral part of that rotation.

  • Al- Rehiayani S., Hafez S. 1998. Host status and green manure effect of selected crops on Meloidogyne chitwoodi race 2 and Pratylenchus neglectus. Nematropica 28: 213-230.
  • LaMondia J. A. 1999. Influence of rotation crops on the strawberry pathogens Pratylenchus penetrans, Meloidogyne hapla, and Rhizoctonia fragariae. Journal of Nematology 31: 650-655.

Update from Manitoba
The Manitoba Buckwheat Growers Association is sponsoring a checkoff vote this year. They are hoping to raise money to promote local markets, to do production-related research, and to leverage government funds. The proposed checkoff is 3/4% of net sales with a maximum of C$250 (US$170) per grower. The vote, scheduled for July, requires a yes vote by 60% of the votes cast by eligible growers.

Unlike our association, MBGA is incorporated and has an elected board of directors and an office.

The province of Manitoba produces about 70% of Canada's buckwheat. About 300 farmers raised 32,000 acres of buckwheat in 1999. That is similar to the amount raised in the whole Northeast. Last year they grew 8000 acres of the new variety Koto, which received a price premium from Japanese buyers.

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