Buckwheat, a wonderful summer cover crop

Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

The June/July issue of Growing for Market magazine has an article I wrote about buckwheat, one of our favorite summer cover crops.

Buckwheat is a fast-growing warm-season broadleaf annual that is a very useful cover crop. Its special strengths are in weed-suppression, attracting beneficial insects, improving the soil tilth (aggregate structure) with its fibrous roots, and extracting potassium, calcium and phosphorus from the soil to the benefit of following crops. Buckwheat is almost three times as good as barley in scavenging phosphorus, and more than ten times better than rye (a poor phosphorus scavenger). Buckwheat can do fairly well on poor soils, is tolerant of a range of soil pH and is an easy crop to deal with manually or with small-scale equipment. Because buckwheat is not related to any of the common food crops, it is simple to include in rotations.

There wasn’t space in the magazine to include all the great resources I found, so I’m including them here.

Resources in the article

e-Organic’s Buckwheat for Cover Cropping in Organic Farming

Principles of Sustainable Weed Management in Organic Cropping Systems

Virginia Association for Biological Farming Infosheet Seeders: Using Manually-operated Seeders for Precision Cover Crop Plantings by Mark Schonbeck and Ron Morse,

How to De-hull Buckwheat with the Country Living Mill

Buckwheat beginning to flower. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Buckwheat beginning to flower. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Buckwheat Resources

Cornell Buckwheat Cover Crop Handbook (thorough, but not organic) .

Buckwheat Cover Crop Guide – Jefferson Farm and Gardens

General Cover Crop Resources

 Agricultural Sustainability Institute at University of California Davis, Cover Crop Database

 USDA/ARS Cover Crop ChartThe crop “tiles” in the chart can be clicked to access more information about 46 cover crops.

NCSU Department of Horticultural Sciences Horticulture Information Leaflet 37, Summer Cover Crops,

SARE, Managing Cover Crops Profitably, the whole book is available as a free download

CEFS Organic Production: Cover Crops for Organic Farms, under Resources, Guides, Organic Production Guide:

Cornell University, Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers,

GFM-June July 2013-cover-300px

Useful sustainable farming links

My Number One Resource for many years has been ATTRA, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Resource, www.attra.ncat.org. Solid useful info on a range of topics. Very helpful people. Toll-free hot-lines in English and Spanish. Hundreds of helpful publications. Newsletters. Look also on their site for SIFT, (Small-Scale Intensive Farm Training Program) for new farmers. Here’s ATTRA’s  pest management page.


Fast becoming another favorite of mine is the newer and rapidly growing eOrganic, the Organic Agriculture part of the Cooperative Extension System.

Many state Extension Services have good websites. Some have particular strengths: Our own Virginia Tech  has lots about vegetables and diseases and pests (not necessarily organic). For locally relevant information, start with your local Extension Office after the EOrganic one. Then prepare for global warming and try one south of you. Cornell is good on fruit and Cornell Plant Pathology runs the Vegetable MD onlineNorth Carolina has good info for commercial growers of vegetables, fruits and flowers, including some publications specifically on organic methods. They also have publications geared more towards home gardeners. And they have another of my favorites: Debbie Roos’ site Growing Small Farms.


Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group has produced a series of Virtual Farm Tour DVDs. The series is called Natural Farming Systems in the South.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Grants and information, including free downloads of several really good books such as Managing Cover Crops Profitably. Click on the Learning Center tab.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, seeds for the south and lots more contacts and events. Click on the links button.

Growing for Market magazine. Monthly magazine packed with practical information for market growers.

If you want to join a discussion group, here’s the one I do: Market-Farming listserv

Farmscaping: Symbiont Biological Pest Management Company, Dr Richard McDonald, and more at ATTRA

Virginia Association for Biological Farming www.vabf.org Conference February 8-9, 2013 in Richmond, including a one day Farm School for new farmers and growers.