by Brian Sheppard
on April 27, 2012
Buckwheat is an easy-to-grow, warm-season annual that is useful in sandy soils, remote food plots, or in blends with other warm-season crops. It also helps improve food plot soils by building soil organic content.
Buckwheat can be planted as a warm-season forage crop with cowpeas, grain sorghum or soybeans and also as a stand-alone crop. Because of its early competitiveness it is not useful as a companion crop while establishing cool-season legumes such as alfalfa or clover. It is easy to grow in areas with little or no seedbed preparation, so it is ideal for that isolated, hard-to-reach hunting plot. It can be planted in spring, but it is also useful for deer managers who get the itch to plant a late-summer plot in July or August.
This warm-season annual can grow in low-fertility, light-textured, well-drained soils. Buckwheat performs best in a cool, moist environment and is best suited for the Northeast or upper Midwest but can be planted in many areas of the South. It’s useful as a soil-builder: Once it matures and goes to seed, plowing it under increases organic matter and returns phosphorus and other minerals from the remaining root and plant residue.
Buckwheat is relatively short-lived and will provide some temporary forage benefits for deer. It offers digestible protein values ranging from 9 to 20 percent depending on soil fertility and pH. Buckwheat does not produce as much forage or the high levels of protein that legumes like cowpeas or soybeans do. It will mature in 7 to 10 weeks, creating a seed source for turkeys and other game birds.
Though buckwheat is useful in rough, remote plots, it certainly performs better in plots with good seedbed preparation and fertility. Seed buckwheat by broadcasting or drilling 1- to 2-inches deep. Summer planted buckwheat establishes rapidly and competes well against broad-leaf weeds and grasses. Since it grows rapidly, you can plant in late summer and produce hunting opportunities for early bow season. I wouldn’t hesitate to plant in August or even in September in the South.
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