New Buckwheat Varieties for Greater Sustainability

Final Report for FNC13-924

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $18,881.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Anne Ongstad
Whitman Ranch
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Project Information


[Editor's note: Photos and the Variety Trial Data tables mentioned in the report are attached separately.]

Organize farm plus cattle ranch. 14,000 acres – organic spring wheat, buckwheat, peas, barley, flax, millet, lentils. Rotational grazing, family operation.

Sustainable practices: Rotational grazing, cover crops, 10 years.


Expand the varieties of buckwheat seed available. More diversity is good, allowing for healthier plants.

We wanted specifically to evaluate two varieties of determinate buckwheat from Ukraine for production purposes. There are few varieties of buckwheat available without contracts and farmers here are interested to see if anything else was available and was valuable for increasing production of high quality, organic seed. No one in North America has determinate varieties that could improve harvest of similarly mature seeds, that could increase the value of this very important crop.

Increase the seed variety given to us. Seed them in different areas of the state to avoid loss through hail/bad weather.

We obtained seeds of these unusual, determinate buckwheat varieties from Ukraine and set out to increase the seed on farm with university assistance for evaluations in partnership with local farmers and Land Grant agronomists across the region. We also hoped that plant breeder Kevin Murphy would find something useful in these lines that could help revive public buckwheat breeding in North America.

Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS) would also like to add that securing a larger quantity of seed at the start could be beneficial. We started with only 4-5 pounds each of these international varieties and two years of hail at multiple locations really set back our efforts to increase from this small quantity. We currently have only an ounce or so of each variety and have been unable to secure additional seeds from war torn Ukraine or from the Russian Federation. As of May 20, we have some positive possibilities from Ukraine, but are now beyond the length of the grant.


  • NPSAS (Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society)
  • Frank Kutka – Seeds & Breeders Club

Provided land for test plots:

  • Rick Mittleider
  • Wayne Mittleider
  • Whitman Ranch
  • Steve Zwinger – NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center

[See attached photo. Anne Ongstad describes the project at the 2013 Organic Field Day in Carrington.]

We had field days to judge how the plants appeared. Yields were measured by Steve Zwinger, NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center. We had many crop failures.

Our university partners found that Devyatka yielded okay, was early, and was shorter than other varieties. We did not get to evaluate Dikul in replicated plots due to crop failure both years.

Despite our best efforts we did not come up with a good quantity of seed to use. Frustrating, but I know I should not let it keep me from continuing to try.

We did learn that the determinate buckwheat from Russia had yield potential and very tight flowering. It was also a bit shorter and earlier. We intend to obtain more seed for ongoing field evaluations on farms to see how well this very different kind of variety works for weed competition, seed yield in various typs of weather, and for economic returns of high quality seeds.

Probably having more seed at the start of the project for more farmers to plant out strips would have helped avoid the bad weather, just by having more locations, and would have increased the amount of farmer involvement and evaluation. Two years of hail after seed set and hard thunderstorms at emergence showed us that insurance of this sort is critical here on the plains.

We learned that trying to make international purchases of seed is hard when there are language barriers and time zone differences to overcome. This has been slow, but critical to really moving ahead.

We also learned that trying to administer a grant from a ranch office when there are multiple university and NGO partners involved is very complicated and slow at times. Several partners pitched in to help, but getting things organized remained slow.

With several crop failures and only limited variety trial data, it is hard to show much impact at this time. However, Kevin Murphy at Washington State University has decided to begin using these new varieties in future buckwheat breeding.  We expect that the concentrated and earlier flowering of Devyatka could be advantageous in some locations and years and are excited about its yield potential.  We are also interested to see what happens if we ever have a bad weather event during that concentrated flowering time.  It could limit production that the indeterminate varieties could otherwise overcome.


• Tours
• Speakers at NPSAS conference

[See attached photos of Rick Mittleider.] This is a photo of Rick Mittleider from the Carrington Research Extension Center/NPSAS Organic Field Day in July, 2014. It was posted to the Farm Breeding Club Facebook page.

• This is the SARE video of the presentation at the 2015 NPSAS Winter Conference.

NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center
2014 Variety Trial Data [See attached Variety Trial Data Tables.]

[See attached photo.] Steve Zwinger during the buckwheat portion of the 2013 Organic Field Day at CREC.

[See attached photos.]

Rick Mittleider speaks about buckwheat at the Carrington Research Extension Center in 2013.

Other photos from the Buckwheat project from NPSAS events:

The organic buckwheat trial at the Carrington REC in 2014 during the Organic Field Day. Devyatka proved to be earlier than other varieties, shorter, and generally a good yielder. The flowering was very concentrated and intensive. You could easily pick it out in any of the experiments.

Rick Mittleider explaining the buckwheat project and the importance of buckwheat during the 2014 Organic Field Day. 

Rick's message throughout the project was that buckwheat allowed for later planting and additional preplanting weed control, that it was a valuable crop on its own, that it seemed to improved soil condition, and that it effectively competed with two of our worst perennial weeds, bindweed and canada thistle. We certainly hope to get enough seed so that experienced farmers like Rick can grow a field of the new varieties and really assess them compared to other varieties that they have been growing for many years.

Project Objectives:

Our University collaborators will help us carry out the initial seed increase by providing small-scale equipment that we lack and also by helping us to carry out replicated small plot evaluations.  The collaborators will also conduct their own small plot evaluations to give us a regional perspective.  They will take photos of the plots and provide us and the public with the data from organic and conventionally managed plots.  They will measure yield, seed counts, lodging, days to flowering and take notes on maturity, weeds, canopy cover, etc.  We will also take notes about the plots on our farms.  This will be our primary tool for assessing whether the new varieties can improve the sustainability of our organic farms and for those who use buckwheat as a cover crop.  We will use the data to predict potential income increases and other impacts which will be discussed at our final meeting and posted on the NPSAS FBC website and Facebook page.

We will also assess the varieties during our field days where farmers will examine, evaluate, and discuss the varietal traits needed for organic production and cover crop purposes.  We will document this with photographs and video that will be posed online with the help of FBC staff.

Going forward and beyond our project, we will meet with other NPSAS-FBC members to discuss the importance of our findings and consider making the seed of promising new varieties available to the public via FBC seed sales.  We will also provide samples of each variety to the USDA National Plant Germplasm System for breeders and other growers to use.


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  • Rick Mittleider
  • Wayne Mittleider


Participation Summary

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.