Skip to main content

Information for Buckwheat Growers

Northeast Buckwheat Growers Newsletter

No. 27 June 2009
Edited by Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell NYSAES, Geneva NY

2009 Field Day will be on August 25
The fifteenth annual Northeast Buckwheat Field Day will held August 25, 2009 at the research farm of Cornell’s Geneva Experiment Station. The program will run from 1:00 to 3:30 pm. The field event will go on rain or shine, so bring an umbrella.

The program will include discussion of different production practices and how they affect crop growth and yield.

Planned field demonstrations include:

  • Different kinds of field preparation before planting
  • Different broadcast seeding techniques
  • Plant or wait if severe rain is forecast?
  • Double crop after wheat

The field day will include information for beginning and experienced buckwheat growers. Announcements will be mailed in late July. Updated information will also be here.

Birkett contract at $17/cwt
For Birkett Mills, the 2009 price for growers is $17 per hundredweight, and $20 for organic buckwheat.

New this year is that organic contracts can be on any acreage. In the past, there was a 50-acre minimum to receive the organic premium.

All commodity prices have eased since last year, and buckwheat is no exception. The price is down $3 from 2008, but it is still higher than in previous years.

Production notes
In dry seasons, buckwheat often does very well on heavier soils. A caution to be aware of is that overworked clay soil tends to get hard as it dries. In that situation, buckwheat can wilt from lack of water, even if there is plenty in the soil. The soil can get hard enough that the fine buckwheat roots can’t press through to get at the water that’s available just a little beyond the root tip.

Buckwheat can be a great tool for restoring an over-worked soil, but if the soil is in particularly poor shape, the buckwheat has trouble growing. It may be better to raise a small grain or sod first, then follow with buckwheat. Decomposing grass roots provide the small channels that buckwheat will grow through.

It’s always encouraging to read about some great buckwheat yields. John Keenan of Fairport planted about 100 acres, and one 30 acre piece ran 60 bu/ac. That yield is close to the theoretical limit of what a crop can produce in our buckwheat season. Unfortunately, untimely rain hurt the other fields, which yielded a bit below average.

North American buckwheat production
New York. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows that the number of farms harvesting buckwheat in New York decreased from 2002 to 2007. Buckwheat farms decreased 49% from 2002, but harvested acres only decreased by 27%. In 2007, 2,142 acres of buckwheat were harvested on 83 farms. Onondaga County harvested the most in the state with 402 acres. It’s worth noting that 2007 was the year that everyone raised corn.

The census, which is conducted every five years, provides facts and figures on virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture, including number and types of farm operations, the economic aspects of farm production, and the demographics of U.S. farm operators. Details can be found on the New York NASS Web site at

Manitoba. Canadian buckwheat production has taken a huge hit because the major processor has pulled out. Viterra (formerly Continental Grain then Agricore) is no longer contracting buckwheat.

There are now two processors in Manitoba, Keystone Grain and West-Can Agra, who hope to contract more than the 3,500-4,000 acres they had in 2008. Mike Durand of West-Can Agra says 2009 looks promising. “My understanding is Japan is going to be very aggressive. They’re going to come up short this year, from what I’m hearing, so the buckwheat business is potentially quite attractive,” Durand says. “They usually contract the first ten bushels an acre. Most of the time there’s more. It goes to Japan, eastern Canada and even Europe. There’s always a market.”

Scott Day, WADO coordinator and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) agronomist and diversification specialist, considers buckwheat a pretty reliable crop in southwest Manitoba, and relatively inexpensive to grow. Price is a big risk however. A good crop of buckwheat, Day says, “just hasn’t been paying the same” as canola or flax, which are easier to keep clean and are less exposed to weather risk. “It’s been close to extinction a few times in Manitoba, but if we have a very late seeding season, buckwheat probably will suddenly be popular again.”

Washington. Gaylin Davies of McKay Seed reports that the export market to Asia has dried up and there is considerable carryover crop from 2008. Farmers are getting $18 to $20 per hundredweight.

Research news
Pollinators. Hisamoto Taki and colleagues at the University of Tsukuba have found that ants are important pollinators of buckwheat when bees are excluded. This observation is surprising because buckwheat has to be cross-pollinated. That means the ants have to carry pollen from one plant to another as they walk among them. We have no information on how much ants pollinate New York buckwheat.

Beneficial root fungi. Most studies of field grown buckwheat have found that the roots are not mycorrhizal. Buckwheat roots, like mycorrhizae, have a small diameter and are able to solubilize phosphorus, so there is less benefit to this fungal association. Now Marjana Regvar’s group at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia has found high colonization in roots inoculated with field soil. Nearly all the roots were colonized with mycorrhizae, but mostly a group of endophytes (fungi living in plants) that isn’t well described. Some were related to Rhizoctonia, which is a group that is beneficial on some plants and causes root rot on others. They didn’t find many AM fungi, which are the usual mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae can take some time to become established, so it probably helped their success to examine the roots of mature plants.

  • M. Likar, U. Bukovnik, I. Kreft, N. K. Chrungoo & M. Regvar. 2008. Mycorrhizal status and diversity of fungal endophytes in roots of common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and tartary buckwheat (F. tataricum) Mycorrhiza 18:309- 315

Seedway buckwheat correctly labeled
The Seedway facility in Mecklenburg that was formerly home to buckwheat giant AgriCulver, was the subject of some bad news this winter. As you have probably read, some of the seed sold from that facility was mislabeled as Certified and the company was fined by the New York Attorney General. Seedway president Don Wertman, who discovered and reported the problem to NYSDAM, says that no buckwheat was involved in the mislabeling. Click here for Seedway's letter to customers.

Kade Research
All the buckwheat varieties grown in New York for the last several decades have been bred by Dr. Clayton Campbell, first at Agriculture Canada, and more recently his private firm, Kade Research. The recent changes in the Northern Plains buckwheat industry and the export market have caused turmoil among the corporate backers. Dr. Campbell reports that they are working on reorganizing the company, and looking forward to getting back to the business of breeding improved buckwheat. We wish Dr. Campbell well in this endeavor!

Previous | Next