Skip to main content

Information for Buckwheat Growers

Northeast Buckwheat Growers Newsletter

No. 3 May 1997
Edited by Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell NYSAES, Geneva NY

Northeast Buckwheat Growers Association
There are now 60 members of the group that is forming the association. Those who have signed on have received a roster of their colleagues. Just knowing who else is growing buckwheat is proving helpful. In some areas it is nice to now that you aren't the only one.

In late April, there was a workshop on buckwheat production in Warsaw, Wyoming Co., NY. Member Bug Tosier was the instigator, and it was a good success, drawing growers from much of western New York. Extension Specialist Bruce Tillapaugh contributed many good management ideas, and was pleased to become more familiar with our crop.

The process of forming the association is being facilitated by Lee Johnson of the Yates Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension. The growers who attended identified several priorities for the association:

  • Exchange information among growers
  • Share equipment, especially for growers who have small acreage or those just getting started with buckwheat
  • Group buying
  • Supporting buckwheat improvement
  • Joint promotion of buckwheat
  • Alternative market outlets
  • Lobby for better ASCS rules on buckwheat production
  • Get this newsletter

Associations like this have been valuable for growers of fruits, vegetables and other agricultural commodities in New York. The Canadian buckwheat growers have been very pleased with the results of their organization.

If you are not a member and want to join, you will find a form to send in attached to this newsletter.

Field Day
The 1997 Buckwheat Field Day will be on Tuesday August 26, 1997 at the NYS Experiment Station in Geneva, NY. Come see new germplasm, discuss buckwheat management, and meet other dedicated buckwheat growers.

Research news
Flooding buckwheat seedlings can be very hard on them. Japanese researchers Sugimoto and Satou found that even one day of flooding five days after emergence cut yield by two-thirds. Six days of flooding killed the plants. Plants that had been up for a month lost a quarter of their yield, so they were much more tolerant.

The weed-suppressing effect of buckwheat is well-known, but the details are not always clear. Eskelsen and Crabtree found that Canada thistle was suppressed by buckwheat, but buckwheat growth was not affected by even high thistle populations. In Nagano, Japan, Tominaga showed that lambsquarters, orchardgrass and one Japanese pigweed were suppressed by 75% in buckwheat, but crabgrass, galinsoga and another kind of pigweed grew just fine. The weeds did not reduce buckwheat yields.

Lodging can be a substantial problem before harvest. Professor Mark Jaffe from North Carolina has discovered that much of the carbohydrate that moves to the seeds during final ripening is coming from the center of the stem. Not only do the seeds get heavier, but the stem gets weaker, making the plants more prone to lodge.

Fitting for buckwheat
One of the advantages of buckwheat is that it can be planted when all the other spring work is done. However, many soils are difficult to fit well in late June or early July. Doing primary tillage earlier, when the ground can be worked well, will pay off weeks later when you fit it up to plant buckwheat.

Moisture content
The moisture content of buckwheat seed determines how well it stores and how well it processes. Knowing more about how it behaves is useful when handling harvested grain.

Here are some notes from the buckwheat buyers in Japan. They use buckwheat for noodles, so their criteria are a little different.

Fresh flavor is retained by storing the buckwheat cold and at a low moisture content. The best moisture content for storage is about 7%, but the seeds are so fragile that they cannot be handled at all. The highest moisture content for storage until the next season is 13-14%. The right texture for noodle making is 14.5-15%, and raising the moisture content is difficult.

All of these numbers are higher than what growers take out of the field, so the crop needs to be handled properly at the elevator. If the moisture content is too high, the seed will begin to heat, just like any other crop. Another problem is that bacteria can grow in the moist seeds, so they need to be dried quickly for this reason also. Japanese mills will reject loads that have unacceptable bacterial counts.

Drying with heat can be a problem in another way. It takes very little heat to turn the seed coat (under the hull) from green to tan. The tan color will also get the crop rejected because it does not have the fresh flavor that is important in the Japanese noodles.

Knowing the moisture content of your ripening buckwheat can be helpful in deciding when to combine. However, most moisture meters do not have a scale for buckwheat. Since each type uses a different correction factor, its best to test some buckwheat on yours using a common scale, for example, oats. Then have the same sample tested at the receiving house to find out how much to add or subtract to the reading on your meter. The barley scale will work with some meters, but not always as accurately as expected. Bill Kenney at AgriCulver says, "Bring the sample in, we'll be happy to test it."

Seeding date
Choosing the right seeding date is important for getting a good crop. The map below shows the results of a climate model that takes into account summer heat that causes flower blasting and fall frost that comes before maturity.

The weather data are collected at one or two sites in each county, so you need to make local corrections. In general, higher altitudes require sowing a little earlier because frost comes sooner, but it is also a bit cooler in late July and early August. The warm nights and deep soil near lakes and rivers will make the plants too big for the best yield. Delaying sowing will help control excessive vegetative growth, and is appropriate if the first frost is later because of lake effect.

Click here for more information about sowing dates.

Previous | Next