Thomas Jefferson and George Washington sang the praises of buckwheat. Today, the broadleaf grain is gaining new popularity as a powerful weed-suppressing cover crop because of its quick establishment and dense growth.
In the Northeast, vegetable farmers are rediscovering how to manage buckwheat effectively. Cornell University researchers found, for example, that a well-established stand of buckwheat eliminated 98% of summer weeds. Click on the underlined web pages to learn more.
The Cornell team, supported by a 2005-08 Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant, also developed a definitive, 18-page Buckwheat Cover Crop Handbook that outlines important management strategies. Based on their surveys and outreach, their efforts had helped 3,000 farmers use buckwheat successfully on a combined 18,000 acres in vegetable production.
Buckwheat also shows promise in integrated pest management because its prolific flowering attracts beneficial insects. In South Carolina, farmer Daniel Parson used a 2010 SARE grant to determine if a buckwheat cover crop helped control the invasive, highly destructive stink bug.
SARE is at the forefront of supporting innovative producers, educators and researchers who are making cover crops one of the most indispensable cost-saving tools in the soil-health toolbox. For example:
In ongoing research supported by a 2010 SARE grant, University of Illinois researchers are investigating the role cover crops play in suppressing root and foliar diseases in soybeans. Testing a variety of cover crop species, the research team is finding early evidence that rye may aid in disease suppression.
In a 2008-11 project, University of Maryland Extension specialists helped one nursery farmer save $115 per acre per production cycle by planting a fescue cover crop between rows. It reduced the number of times he had to mow to control weeds.
This only scratches the surface of the hundreds of SARE research and on-farm demonstration projects on cover crops. To discover more, and to find practical tools and guides, visit SARE's Cover Crops Topic Room.