Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
Buckwheat is a summer annual grown widely throughout the world. Buckwheat is often grouped with the grains, but it is not a true grain because it is not a grass. Buckwheat has favorable agronomical characteristics. The period from planting to harvest is only 10 to 12 weeks. Buckwheat often yields a better crop on poor soil than the true cereals. Buckwheat can also be included in an organic crop rotation to disrupt the weed cycle. It can be double-cropped with wheat, and it is popular with beekeepers because the resulting honey has a distinctive flavor.
The amino acid composition of buckwheat appears to be nutritionally superior to that of cereal grains, but this has not translated into good performance of poultry fed buckwheat-based diets. Buckwheat contains protease inhibitors and tannin, antinutritional factors that appear to inhibit performance. Buckwheat has some potential as a protein supplement to cereal grains. Buckwheat has a high lysine content, which can compensate for the lower lysine levels common in cereal grains.
Although some research shows that broiler feed can be composed of up to 60% buckwheat with no impact on overall body weight of the poultry, there is a reduction in feed efficiency when buckwheat composes so much of the diet. Diets of animals raised outdoors should not include such high levels of buckwheat. Buckwheat contains fagopyrin, a substance that increases skin sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) light, leading to sunburns. It is recommended that poultry raised outdoors be fed a diet of no more than 30% buckwheat. As the cost difference between organic corn and buckwheat widens, it becomes more economical to include buckwheat in broiler diets.
Buckwheat: A multi-purpose, short-season alternative. Robert Myers and Louis Meinke, University of Missouri.