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Can buckwheat be the new top crop on the rotation block?

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Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers are encouraging farmers to buck the trend and use buckwheat as a triple threat crop. In addition to its high nutritional value, the fast growing crop is proving to be beneficial in suppressing pests and preventing soil diseases.

Research on Prince Edward Island by AAFC research scientists Dr. Christine Noronha and Dr. Jason McCallum revealed that buckwheat is an effective bio-fumigant for wireworms, the larvae stage of click beetles.

Since wireworms mainly inhabit soil, Dr. McCallum studied the chemical profile of buckwheat roots. He discovered a chemical – acyl sucrose – that is not commonly found in plants other than buckwheat and knotweed.

"I exposed wireworms to acyl sucrose, which caused hormonal imbalances, such as improper growth and poor mating habits."

- Dr. Christine Noronha, Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

This research, combined with crop rotation trials, showed that buckwheat planted in the rotation one year prior to potatoes reduced the wireworm population and improved potato yield compared to the more commonly planted barley.

Additionally, AAFC research scientist, Dr. Pervaiz Abbasi, in Nova Scotia tested buckwheat's effectiveness as a soil amendment. A soil amendment is anything added to soil, such as fertilizer, to improve its fertility, ability to absorb water or reduce soil diseases.

His team chopped fresh buckwheat plants into small pieces and added them to soil to test how well the soil performed when growing radishes and cucumbers in growth chambers at the Kentville Research and Development Centre.

"Buckwheat, when added to soil at least three weeks prior to planting, helps protect the radish and cucumber crops by suppressing diseases."

- Dr. Pervaiz Abbasi, Scientist Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

"Buckwheat suppresses soil and root diseases by increasing the populations of beneficial soil bacteria and fungi, which act as a bio-control. These benefits continue even up to eight weeks after the soil is first amended."

Farmers are often looking for new and effective management strategies for pests and soil diseases. This research could help provide effective and sustainable options to suppress pests, and improve crop yield and soil health.

Key Discoveries/Benefits

Photo gallery

Researchers kneeling in a field of buckwheat crops
Dr. Noronha (left) and Dr. McCallum (right) kneel in buckwheat grown at AAFC Harrington Research Farm on Prince Edward Island.
Ten pieces of a buckwheat plant including leaves, stem and roots laying on a table
Buckwheat roots have a chemical called, acyl sucrose, which causes hormonal imbalances in wireworms.
A head shot of a researcher
Dr. Abassi discovered that buckwheat added to soil prior to planting helped protect the radish and cucumber crops by suppressing diseases.

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