Animal feed resources information system

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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Common names 

Buckwheat, common buckwheat [English]; blé Noir, blé de Barbarie, bucail, sarrasin [French]Gwinizh-du [Breton];boekweit [Dutch]; Echter Buchweizen, Blenden, Brein, Gemeiner Buchweizen, Heidenkorn, Heidensterz, Schwarzes Welschkorn, Türkischer Weizen [German]; Φαγόπυρον το εδώδιμον [Greek]; grano saraceno [Italiano]; trigo sarraceno [Portuguese]; Hrișcă [Romanian]; alforfón, trigo sarraceno [Spanish]Karabuğday [Turkish]; Mạch ba góc, Kiều mạch [Vietnamese]; Bokwiet [Afrikaans]Gandum kudaحنطة سوداء; [Bahasa indonesia]  [Arabic];  蕎麥 [Chinese];כוסמת  [Hebrew]; कूटू [Hindi]; ソバ [Japanese];  메밀 [Korean]; Гречиха посевная [Russian]


Fagopyrum esculentum subsp. ancestralis Ohnishi, Polygonum fagopyrum L.

Related feed(s) 

Buckwheat is an erect annual herb that grows mostly on poor soils. It is mainly cultivated for its edible seeds that are often referred to as cereal though the plant is not a cereal neither a poaceae. The grain can be cooked like rice and ground into flour or groats like wheat or maize. Buckwheat grain and plant can also be used as fodder for farm animals (Jansen, 2006). Buckwheat foliage can be fed to livestock either green or ensiled. The buckwheat stover is considered a very low quality forage, unsuitable for sheep (Duval, 1995).


Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is an erect annual herb that grows to 120 cm high and has indeterminate growth habit. The root system consists in a shallow taproot and a spreading secondary roots that can go 1 m deep (Kammermeyer,  The stems are hollow and triangular. Its leaves are alternate, simple and entire, with stipules. Lower leaves are petiolated while upper ones are almost sessile. The leafblade is triangular to cordate, 2-10 cm long -2-10 cm broad. The inflorescence is an axillary or terminal cluster of flowers, combined in false racemes. The flowers are regular, small-sized, rose-red to white in colour. The fruit is a typical triangular, winged nutlet, 5-7.5 mm x 3 mm, grey-brown, dark brown to black in colour. The seed is pale green turning reddish brown almost the same size as the fruit (Jansen, 2006).


Buckwheat seeds are edible and can be eaten dehulled or undehulled, ground into flour or groats depending on the final intended use. The flour can be used to make "pancakes" in Brittany and Crozets in the French Alps. Buckwheat seeds have regained interest because of their gluten free proteins sought after by many consumers with gluten intolerance. Buckwheat seeds and whole plants can be fed to livestock which eat it readily. The green parts can be fed green, made into hay or ensiled. Buckwheat also make valuable cover crop and provides green manure (Jacquemart et al., 2012; Jansen, 2006). In the USA, buckwheat growers may decide to use their buckwheat as forage rather than grain if seed set was compromised. Buckwheat can be used as a cultivation of substitution to maize in harsh conditions


Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) originated from Asia. Its domestication started in the South of China as soon as 2000 to 3000 BCE.
It was then introduced to other Asian countries southward crossing the Himalayas and eastwards to Japan. The arrival of buckwheat in Europe followed the silkroad and cultivation became really popular during the early Middle ages.
During the 17th century, european emigrants brought buckwheat to North America, Argentina, Brazil and South-Africa.

Today, buckwheat is grown worldwide though the production is not at its maximum. This latter was reached during the 19th century and was followed be a decline due to the emergence of cereal crops which made more benefit of fertilizers and had greater yields.
Total area of production in the world was 2.5 million ha in 1961 and it  dropped to 1.44 million ha in 2010 (Jacquemart et al., 2012). It has recently regained interest as buckwheat has favourable nutrient properties for human consumption like the gluten-free proteins and the presence of antioxidative substances. Moreover it has been reported to be a good cover crop (Jacquemart et al., 2012).

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is found in temperate and subtropical areas. It can be grown at higher elevations in the Tropics (1500 m altitude in Ethiopia, for example). Buckwheat can grow in places where the day temperatures are in the range ofg 18-30 °C and the night temperatures drop 5-10°C lower (Jansen, 2006). It requires a dry period at maturity and harvest but it is sensitive to drought at earlier stages because of its shallow roots. If drought occurs during blooming stage, seed production is impaired. Buckwheat does very well on low N, light sandy soils with neutral to slightly acidic pH. It is particularly adapted to recently cleared infertile fields, drained marshland or acidic soils with a high content of decomposing organic matter.
It does not well on rich soils since lush growth causes lodging and reduces seed set. However, if it is grown to produce biomass and not seed, rich heavy soils keep being valuable.


Forage management 

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is a fast growing plant that can be grown as a summer or a winter crop in rotation with cereals or also in intercropping with vegetables (Jansen, 2006). Buckwheat reaches its full height only 4-6 weeks after sowing and sets seeds within 70-130 days after emergence. The indeterminate growth habit of buckwheat is a constraint of the crop as it is never easy to determine when best harvest can be obtained.


Buckwheat seeds should be sown on a clean 5 cm depth firm, well-prepared seed-bed. It can be drilled at 40-60 kg/ha to 2- 4 cm deep in rows spaced 30 cm apart or it can be broadcast at higher density (+10-20 kg seeds/ha) and then harrowed to cover with topsoil (Jansen, 2006). Though weeds are generallly not a problem, fast growing weeds may however be an issue and this is alleviated by sowing at higher density and harrowing 4 weeks after sowing. This operation removes weeds and buckweat plant but the high density of buckwheat allows it to remain in good quantity.
If sown at lower density the plant will make more branches and seeds.


In Turkey, a mean grain yield ranged from 1460 to 1590 kg/ha. At harvest times, the green matter of buckwheat was above 27 tonnes/ha and hay yield was about 7.5-8.5 tonnes/ha. It was reported that yields increased by delaying harvest times (Kara, 2014).
Under harsh conditions of South Italy, buckwheat grain yieds were comprised between 0.76 tonne/ha and 1.53 tonnes/ha  (Brunori et al., 2005).

Environmental impact 

High quality cover crop
Buckwheat grows quickly, and produces high amount of biomass that can be ploughed into the soil for high N and high P manure (Jacquemart et al., 2012).

Weed and diseases control

Buckwheat plant has some allelopathic properties that prevent weed development (Jacquemart et al., 2012). Spreading 2 tonnes of buk=ckwheat pelletsbefore rice plantation was found to reduce weed by 80% in rice field and thus to increase rice yield by 20% (Eom et al., 1999; Iqbal et al., 2002; Iqbal et al., 2003). Buckwheat also decreases disease load (Jacquemart et al., 2012).

Interaction with insects

Buckwheat with its continuous blooming attracts many kinds of insects including pest predators like syrphids. It is a good foraging plant for bees that make tasteful honey from its nectar. It has been reported taht 1 ha of buckwheat could provide 125-300 kg honey.
Buckwheat long lasting flowering period is also valuable for beekeepers as the bees still find food on buckwheat when other melliferous plants have disappeared (Naukim, 1998 and Olson, 2001 cited by Jacquemart et al., 2012)


Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 

Skin sensitization

The main concern about using buckwheat as cattle feed is that a skin rash can develop on light-colored cows if they are fed a ration that is greater than 30% buckwheat and they are in the sun. Most dairies wouldn't have that much buckwheat to feed, and sunshine is rare enough in a Northeastern winter, so this concern might be small (Björkman et al., 2010) .


Grain and buckwheat forage are readily eaten by cattle (Björkman et al., 2010).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 
Datasheet citation 

DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/25140 Last updated on July 16, 2019, 11:40