Reestablishing the use of buckwheat as a precise weed control tool

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $103,235.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Thomas Bjorkman
Cornell University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: beans, peas (culinary), sweet corn


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: green manures

    Proposal abstract:

    Buckwheat is a traditional tool for weed control, but knowledge of how to use it effectively is being lost. Current guidance is overly general, missing important details needed to incorporate it effectively into farming systems. Through this project, more growers will use buckwheat effectively by knowing the situations where is works best and detailed procedures to succeed. We will provide the needed information through four approaches. First, we will document traditional knowledge of the art of weed control with buckwheat through interviews and gray literature. Second, we will identify the questions growers most need answered to try the method, and do field trials to provide answers with the degree of detail expected of other weed control methods. These include the target crop, the weeds that are controlled and not controlled, seeding rates, and the timing of use relative to the climate and to weed and crop development. Third, we will engage about 60 growers to test and demonstrate the effectiveness. Finally, we will produce a definitive grower-friendly information set for the Northeast that will be in archival form so that it is available indefinitely. It will be promoted through field days, grower conferences, mailings, and publications in trade magazines and extension newsletters. The likely best uses are: 1. Bringing abandoned land or old pasture into production using buckwheat to suppress summer annuals and to make the soil friable. 2. Before a late-summer seeding of alfalfa or alfalfa/grass to suppress quackgrass and winter annuals, and to leave a weed-free friable soil for rapid establishment of small alfalfa and timothy seeds. 3. Between early-harvested vegetables and overwintered crops to suppress annual weeds and maintain tilth. 4. Before strawberries, in which weed control is a great expense. Used with a winter grain to disrupt perennial weeds, to suppress annuals, and to reduce the weed seed bank.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    The performance target is to have 100 growers in the Northeast using buckwheat as a cover crop successfully for weed management, in situations where they did not use it previously, by the 2008 growing season.

    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.