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K-State Agronomy eUpdates

Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

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Manhatan, KS 66506

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Extension Agronomy

Restrictions on buckwheat use in cover crop mixtures near commodity wheat

On March 16, the USDA-NRCS released an eBulletin stating that NRCS will not recommend buckwheat in cover crop plantings in areas in rotation with or adjacent to commodity wheat production that will be planted to wheat within the next 2 calendar years after planting buckwheat. This is because of the potential for buckwheat seed to contaminate the wheat crop and the health risks that it potentially poses. This decision has been taken as a result of a request by some U.S. wheat grower associations and their concerns about Japanese markets.

The NRCS bulletin, NB 190-16-8 ECS, is as follows:

 

Exclusion of Buckwheat in Conservation Plantings in or Near Commodity Wheat Fields in Selected West and Central States

 

 

 

Purpose.   To explain potential health risks of buckwheat allergies in some Asian countries and provide guidance for excluding buckwheat in conservation plantings in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming and reducing contamination in wheat exports to Japan and other Asian countries.

 

Expiration Date.   September 30, 2017   

 

Background.    Farmers in the United States grow buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) as a grain crop but also as a cover crop to improve soil health and, in pollinator habitat seed mixes, to support bees and other pollinators.  The Pacific Northwest exports much of its wheat crop to Asia, including Japan.  In recent years, Japanese buyers have found low levels of buckwheat in their wheat shipments from the United States.  Japan is concerned with buckwheat contamination in wheat shipments.  They require listing of the presence of buckwheat as an allergen on food products.  Japanese have a higher level of sensitivity to buckwheat allergies, causing issues analogous to peanut allergies in the United States.

U.S. wheat grower associations are working to eliminate buckwheat contamination in wheat shipments to Japan.  Their efforts are critical due to the potential health risk the buckwheat presents to those with an allergy, and buckwheat contamination in wheat shipments to Japan could have significant economic impacts.  Grain and wheat associations are working diligently to educate producers who grow buckwheat as a grain crop.  They have asked NRCS to assist with buckwheat used in conservation programs.

The wheat export stream through Pacific Northwest terminals to Japan comes from many wheat-producing States, including Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.  Some of these export to Japan only when economic conditions are conducive.

NRCS recommends buckwheat as a cover crop throughout much of the United States.  Buckwheat is a warm-season annual that can mature in less than 60 days, and is useful in rotations with cool-season crops.  Buckwheat is highly attractive to a number of pollinator species including honey bees and native bees.  Both traditional and organic producers use buckwheat.    

 

Explanation.  NRCS State offices in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming must update their seeding recommendations to exclude buckwheat in conservation plantings around wheat crops as follows:  

  • NRCS will not recommend buckwheat in conservation plantings in areas in rotation with or adjacent to commodity wheat production that will be planted to wheat within the next 2 calendar years after planting buckwheat because of the potential for buckwheat seed to contaminate the wheat crop, and the health risks that potentially poses.  “Adjacent” is designated as within 30 feet of a wheat field.  Although the general recommendation is to not plant wheat for 1 year after growing buckwheat, NRCS will be more conservative and require 2 calendar years.
  • Each State must update their conservation practice specifications (i.e., seeding recommendations and implementation guides) to permanently reflect this exclusion of using buckwheat around commodity wheat fields.  This update includes, but is not limited to, the following conservation activities:
    • Use of buckwheat must be excluded from cover crops plantings in rotation or adjacent to fields with wheat production or abstain from growing wheat as a commodity for 2 calendar years after planting buckwheat.
    • Use of buckwheat must be excluded from pollinator plantings in rotation with or adjacent to fields currently planted or that will be planted to commodity wheat within the next 2 calendar years.
    • The use of buckwheat in conservation plantings in these States is still permitted in fields or areas that are not used for commodity wheat production.
  • Each State must ensure that conservation planners are aware of this issue and the guidance and criteria for buckwheat exclusion.

Actions must be completed prior to 2016 planting season for buckwheat.    

 

Contact.  Questions regarding this bulletin should be directed to John Englert, National Program Leader-Plant Materials, Ecological Sciences Division, at John.Englert@wdc.usda.gov.