Tartary buckweat less effective than common buckwheat as a summer cover crop in southern Wisconsin

Systematic assessment of novel crops and management techniques are practical objectives of agricultural field research. This study sought to expand the cover cropping toolkit available to WI farmers with a series of on-station experiments using buckwheat (Fagopyrum spp).
Cover crops provide many benefits to farms and the environment, including improving soil quality and fertility, weed suppression, beneficial insect habitat, and erosion prevention (Clark ed., 2007). Summer cover crops have not been widely studied in Wisconsin because a relatively short growing season tends to limit their use on commercial grain farms. However, many organic vegetable growers use summer cover crops as part of complex, diverse rotations. In a survey conducted in 2006 of 70 Wisconsin and Illinois vegetable growers, 78% reported using common buckwheat (F. esculentum) cover crops, with over a third of respondents using it every year (John Hendrickson, unpublished data).
Common buckwheat (CBW) is known for its ease of establishment, thick canopy, profuse flowers and rapid decomposition. Previous research has detailed the positive effects of buckwheat cover crops on soil tilth in Quebec (N’Dayegamiye and Tran, 2001), weed suppression in New England (Schonbeck, 1991), phosphorus availability in Australia (Zhu et al., 2002), and promoting beneficial insect populations in New Zealand (Araj et al., 2009). WI vegetable growers value these benefits to varying degrees, and are open to more research and information that would improve the efficacy of buckwheat cover cropping.

Author: Mary Saunders