Buckwheat and Summer Cover Crop Field Day
Alfred State College’s Center for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA) hosted the 2010 Northeast Buckwheat Field Day in August. Sponsors included the Alfred State College Institute for Sustainability, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York. Dr. Brian Baker, executive director of the Institute for Sustainability, welcomed the participants, including farmers, seed dealers, and millers. Thomas Bjorkman, associate professor of vegetable crop physiology at Cornell University, led a tour of demonstrations on best management techniques for buckwheat grain production. Bjorkman talked about factors needed to produce a successful crop, including site selection, preparation, planting, and harvest. While buckwheat is resilient and highly competitive, good management is essential. He emphasized tight plantings and fast emergence as the way to get the most out of a buckwheat crop. Dr. Elizabeth Dyck, the Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New York, discussed buckwheat’s use as a cover crop. Angela Possinger of Roger Williams University (RI) presented her research on buckwheat’s ability to recover phosphorous. There was ample time for the nearly 40 participants to network and exchange experiences. Participants were shown demonstrations of other summer cover crops, including sorghum-sudangrass, Japanese millet, phacelia, and crotalaria. Dyck offered suggestions for the production of cover crop seeds as a farm enterprise. The shortage of supply of certain cover crop seeds has made it a seller’s market. Other topics included niches for summer cover crops in rotations, the nutrient and crop protection benefits of cover crops, and the market for buckwheat and cover crop seeds. The take home messages were that buckwheat is a viable alternative crop in the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania, and that summer cover crops can produce multiple benefits for farmers in the Northeast.