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Information for Buckwheat Growers

Northeast Buckwheat Growers Newsletter

No. 12 September 2001
Edited by Thomas Bjorkman, Cornell NYSAES, Geneva NY

The harvest is coming in early in some areas. Heat injury to the buds in early August did not lengthen the season! Some kernels appear to be breaking open more easily. That is another reason to be gentle at harvest.

An early frost hit parts of Pennsylvania. If the grain is ripe, buckwheat can be directly combined after a frost. The frost makes the kernels fall off very easily, so it is best not to delay the harvest. If the grain is not ripe, the decision is more difficult. If only the top few inches of the plants are killed, the remaining parts of the plant will still ripen grain. Inspect the plants closely to see where kernels are in relation to the frost injury, and whether enough of the crop is in the uninjured part to make harvest worthwhile. The grain in the frosted part will be lost. If most of the grain is frosted and immature, it might be possible to salvage it as forage or use it as a plow down.

Even without frost, kernels seem to be splitting more this year. Combine settings, as most of you know already: Very slow cylinder and lots of air. Keep the stems moving through.

Stem rot often sets in at the end of September. Individual stems turn brown and dry out. The disease progresses quickly and the dried stems easily fall under the weight of the grain. Fallen stems are missed by the combine. When checking fields for maturity, give the stems a look as well. If there is a noticeable amount of stem rot, it may be worth harvesting as early as seed maturity will allow.

2001 planting recap
The 2001 growing season had good moisture in most of the Northeast. The big exception was the lack of rain in Western and Northern NY. In fields managed to conserve moisture before planting, the conditions for germination were generally good. The poor stands caused by excessive moisture of 2000 was not repeated. Dry soils and high temperatures came about a month after sowing. Where the soil held enough moisture, the yield potential was maintained.

Heat injury
High temperatures hit the Northeast just as buckwheat was coming into bloom. From August 6 to 9 the day temperatures in Geneva were in the low 90's and the night temperatures in the mid 70's. Buckwheat is prone to abort flowers and seed when the temperature is too warm. Harmful temperature can be as little as 78 degrees. The lack of relief from the heat at night compounded the problem. In addition, the northern part of the region drought stressed the plants further.

Heat injury reduced early seed set in many sites. The effect was that a lot of the early flowers, which usually make most of the crop, did not produce any seed. Later flowers set seed to make up for the early loss, but they have less time to fill. It is worth watching maturation carefully since there will be more empty kernels that make judging harvest maturity more difficult. Take samples and blow away all the empty kernels to get an accurate assessment of when to harvest.

2001 Field Day
The 2001 Northeast Buckwheat Field Day was held on Aug. 28.. Thanks to Grant Jordan of ACDS Research for hosting the field day at their buckwheat trial site in Waterloo, NY. Growers discussed the effects of heat and drought on the crop as well as seed rot that was prevalent last year.

We had two guest speakers. Cliff Orr of Birkett Mills spoke about the international buckwheat market, which has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Olga Padilla-Zakour of Cornell spoke about her research into ways to coat kasha so that it keeps its texture more easily when cooking. One unexpected guest was a Holstein cow that came wandering among the research plots.

The field day was written up in Country Folks, by reporter Ken Thomas.

Koto trials in 2001
Two on-farm trials of Koto have already been harvested. With seed produced in 1999, the yield advantage we have seen in the past remains: 890 lb/ac vs 780 for Manisoba. At another location, using seed produced last year, the yields were equal: 1130 lb/ac for Koto and 1160 for Manisoba.

Two Koto plantings using 2000 seed emerged later than Manisoba and grew more slowly at first. They made up for that somewhat with higher seed set. A weak seed lot may be to blame for the lack of a yield advantage in those plantings.

Growers who are producing certified seed of Koto have also commented on the slow start of the crop. The seed they produce this year should be more vigorous. The seed they planted was weaker because the supply was short and lower-quality seed was common from the 2000 growing season in Canada.

The seed size of Koto is more uniform, and averages a bit larger. Manisoba has somewhat larger and much more uniform seed than the older Manor.

Screen size Manisoba Koto

Buckwheat Varieties in Manitoba
Buckwheat growers in Manitoba had about 23,000 acres in 2000. They had a difficult year, so the yields are generally low. Here is how they did. Thanks to "The Groat" a publication of the MBGA for this information.

Variety Yield (bu/ac) Acres
Koto 13.4 6500
Manisoba 17.8 1850
Koban 5.8 600
Springfield 13.2 600
Manor 13.5 2700
Mancan 11.1 9100
Common 12.3 2400

In the Northeast, Mancan was raised in the early 1980's. Manor succeeded it and was raised through 1999. Manisoba was introduced to the Northeast in 2000, and Koto is currently being tested. Trials of Koban and Springfield at Geneva, NY in the 1990's showed them unsuited to our area.

Production of Koto in Manitoba is restricted to selected growers for Agricore. There are ongoing legal wranglings over some non-Agricore grain from Manitoba being marketed as Koto. In New York, Koto is licensed to Birkett Mills.

Buckwheat and health
Recent work has shown that buckwheat protein as part of the diet lowers blood cholesterol substantially. A few years ago a buckwheat protein was found to soak up cholesterol from food and prevent it from being absorbed in the small intestine. Dr. Kayashita, a nutritionist at Hiroshima University, found that this buckwheat protein is not digested, so it carries the cholesterol out of the body.

The latest investigations show that buckwheat is more effective at lowering cholesterol than the soy protein isolates that are being sold for that purpose.

The association grew by 18 new members who raise buckwheat in the Northeast. We continue to get more farmers and researchers who get the online newsletter announcements.

One of the things that members want from the Northeast Buckwheat Growers Association is the chance to share buckwheat growing ideas with other farmers. I'm happy to print your good ideas here.

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