Fast-growing, Fagopyrum esculentum (Buckwheat) is a warm-season, herbaceous annual flowering plant with erect, reddish stems and arrow-shaped leaves. A profusion of shallow white flowers, resembling those of knotweeds, bloom in mid to late summer when other plants are no longer blooming. The flowers appear quickly, within 3 to 6 weeks after planting and bloom continuously for several weeks. They attract pollinators and beneficial insects and make long-lasting bouquets. They are followed by dark brown, triangular seeds about the size of a soybean.
- Buckwheat is a pseudo-cereal, similar to amaranth and quinoa. It is a broadleaf plant, not a cereal grain, but its seeds are used like most cereal grains.
- The hulled seeds (groats) can be used in food preparations, such as kasha.
- Buckwheat is also processed into products such as breakfast foods, flour, and soba noodles.
- Buckwheat is gluten-free and a good energy source, containing high levels of resistant starch and various nutrients.
- Studies show Buckwheat is more satiating than other grains (wheat, rice) and can provide health beneﬁts. It may promote weight loss, improve heart health, and help manage diabetes.
- As a whole grain, it provides at least 10% of the recommended daily needs in protein, ﬁber, phosphors, and B vitamins (B2, B3).
- It is also an excellent source (over 20% of the recommended daily needs) of magnesium, copper, and manganese.
Pollinators, beneficial insects, wildlife habitat
- Buckwheat flowers are rich in nectar and attract bees and honeybees. The dark-colored honey produced is famous thanks to its deep and nutty ﬂavor.
- They also attract beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps, minute pirate bugs, ladybeetles, tachinid flies, and hoverflies. They will prey on insect pests of neighboring crops.
- Buckwheat has the potential to attract aphids and lygus bugs. However, these may become a food source for the beneficial insects attracted by the flowers.
- The seeds are happily devoured by gamebirds, songbirds, and small mammals, such as squirrels.
- Buckwheat attracts deer, rabbits, and turkeys that feast on young plants.
- Fast-growing, Buckwheat forms a dense canopy and is excellent at suppressing weeds (summer annual weeds and perennial weeds).
Cover crop and greater biodiversity in crop rotations
- Though not a legume, Buckwheat is an excellent cover crop. It produces seed faster than any other grain crop, making it well-suited to areas with short growing seasons. Buckwheat reaches maturity in only 10 to 12 weeks.
- Buckwheat can prevent erosion, improve soil aggregation (thanks to its extensive root network, which leaves the soil mellow), and scavenge nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium.
- When Buckwheat residue is incorporated into the soil, it quickly breaks down and releases nutrients for uptake by the following crop.
Livestock forage and feed
- Buckwheat has historically been used to feed cattle, pigs, and chickens. While the grain is high in amino acid lysine (deficient in other grains), it has a lower feed value than oats, wheat, oats, barley, rye, or corn.
- It should be mixed with other grains when fed to livestock and do not include more than 30% of the mixture – or this may lead to skin rashes when the animals are out in the sunshine.
- Buckwheat grows to 6-36 in. tall (15-90 cm).
- Performs best in light to medium, moist to mesic, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
- The plant tolerates low-fertile soils and acidic soils but is not tolerant of extreme drought, flooding, or frost. It will not perform well in compacted, saturated, or coarse soils.
- Buckwheat should be planted after the danger of frost has passed.
- If grown for grain harvest, it should be planted when seed development can occur in cool weather and plant growth can occur in warm weather.
- If grown as a cover crop, Buckwheat can be planted anytime as long as the soil temperature is warm enough for seed germination ( between 45-105ºF (7-40ºC), and there is enough for biomass accumulation.
- Sow seeds 0.5 to 1.5 in. deep (1-3 cm) and 3 in. apart (7 cm) in 6 to 8 in rows. Seeds usually germinate within 3 to 4 days if the soil is warm.
- Buckwheat grown as a cover crop should be mowed no more than 10 days after the plants begin to bloom (about 4 to 7 weeks after planting) in order to prevent the plants from reseeding and becoming a weed.
- If grown for beneficial insect habitat, let your plants bloom for at least 20 days, so that minute pirate bugs can produce a new generation.
- Buckwheat can also be grown until it fully matures and be harvested for grain or left to reseed the field.
- The plant is easily killed by mowing or frost. Residue breaks down quickly- Another crop should be planted as quickly as possible to cover the soil.
- No serious insect or disease issues. Keep an eye out for root rot, leaf spot, aster yellows, powdery mildew, and sclerotinia stem rot.
- Buckwheat can become a weed if its seeds are allowed to mature in the field.
- Buckwheat grain can lead to a skin rash in livestock if consumed in large quantities or frequently.
- This plant has low-severity poison characteristics.
- Propagated by seed.
- Native to south-central China and Tibet.
Buckwheat is a good companion plant for Brussel Sprouts, Cantaloupe, Fenugreek, Gourd, Kale, Melon, Muskmelon, Pumpkins, Soybeans, Summer Squash, Watermelon, Winter Squash, and Zucchinis.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.