Eragrostis tef

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Eragrostis tef
Teff pluim Eragrostis tef.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Chloridoideae
Genus: Eragrostis
Species: E. tef
Binomial name
Eragrostis tef
(Zucc.) Trotter

Eragrostis abyssinica (Jacq.) Link

Eragrostis tef, teff, Williams lovegrass, annual bunch grass, taf (Amharic: ጤፍ? ṭēff; Tigrinya: ጣፍ? ṭaff), or xaafii (Oromo), is an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to Eritrea and Ethiopia.[1] The word "teff" is connected by folk etymology to the Ethio-Semitic root "ṭff", which means "lost" (because of the small size of the grain).


Eragrostis tef has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium.[2] It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is much smaller and cooks faster, thus using less fuel.


Eragrostis tef is adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to waterlogged soil conditions. Maximum teff production occurs at altitudes of 1,800 to 2,100 m (5,900 to 6,900 ft), growing season rainfall of 450 to 550 mm (18 to 22 in), and a temperature range of 10 to 27 °C (50 to 81 °F). Teff is daylight sensitive and flowers best with 12 hours of daylight.

Teff is an important food grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it is used to make injera or keyta, and less so in India and Australia. It is now raised in the US, in Idaho and Nevada. In addition to people from traditional teff-consuming countries, customers include those on gluten-restricted diets.[3] Because of its small seeds (less than 1 mm diameter), a handful is enough to sow a large area. This property makes teff particularly suited to a seminomadic lifestyle.

Ethiopia had a long-standing ban in effect on the export of teff grain or flour from the country prompted by increasing grain prices.[4] In 2015, that ban was lifted after the introduction of farming techniques which improved yields 40%.[5]


Between 8000 and 5000 BC, the people of the Ethiopian highlands were among the first to domesticate plants and animals for food. Teff was one of the earliest plants domesticated.[6] Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. Genetic evidence points to E. pilosa as the most likely wild ancestor.[7] A 19th century identification of teff seeds from an ancient Egyptian site is now considered doubtful; the seeds in question (no longer available for study) are more likely of E. aegyptiaca, a common wild grass in Egypt.[8]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Teff is noted for its high quality and high yield, when compared to other forage rotations.[9] It is also known as an "emergency crop" because it is planted late in the spring when the growing season is warmer, and most other crops have already been planted. It does not tolerate any type of frost.[10] Teff is also valued for its fine straw, which is traditionally mixed with mud for building purposes. The first draft of the Eragrostis tef genome was published in 2014.[11]

In 1996, the US National Research Council characterized teff as having the "potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare."[2]

Teff and sorghum, ingredients for Tella

Teff has been widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia and neighboring countries, accounting for about a quarter of total cereal production in Ethiopia.[12] Teff is a main ingredient for preparing injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread.

Teff is high in protein, carbohydrates and fiber.[13] In one study in Ethiopia, farmers indicated a preference among consumers for white teff over darker colored varieties.[14]


  1. ^ Aptekar, Lewis (2013). In the Lion's Mouth: Hope and Heartbreak in Humanitarian Assistance. XLibris LLC. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-4836-9519-8. 
  2. ^ a b National Research Council (1996-02-14). "Tef". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I: Grains. Lost Crops of Africa. 1. National Academies Press. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-309-04990-0. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  3. ^ Forester, Sandra (March 13, 2003). "Idaho farmers may try teff Gluten-free grain touted as cure for celiac disease". Idaho Statesman. 
  4. ^ Jeffrey, James (2 April 2015). "Will Ethiopia's teff be the next 'super grain'?". BBC. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Nurse, Earl (18 December 2015). "Teff, the Ethiopian superfood that used to be banned?". CNN. Retrieved 12 December 2015. 
  6. ^ Murphy, Denis J. (2007). People, Plants, and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199207145. 
  7. ^ Ingram, Amanda L.; Doyle, Jeff J. (2003). "The origin and evolution of Eragrostis tef (Poaceae) and related polyploids: Evidence from nuclear waxy and plastid rps16". American Journal of Botany. 90 (1): 116–122. doi:10.3732/ajb.90.1.116. JSTOR 4122731. 
  8. ^ Germer, Renate (1985). Flora des pharaonischen Ägypten. Mainz: von Zabern. ISBN 3-8053-0620-2. 
  9. ^ "Teff As An Irrigated Alternative Forage". Hay & Forage Grower. Mar 11, 2012. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ Don Miller (2009) "Teff Grass: A New Alternative", UC Davis, California
  11. ^ Cannarozzi, G.; et al. (2014). "Genome and transcriptome sequencing identifies breeding targets in the orphan crop tef (Eragrostis tef)". BMC Genomics. 15: 581. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-581. 
  12. ^ Gabre-Madhin, Eleni Zaude (2001). Market Institutions, Transaction Costs, and Social Capital in the Ethiopian Grain Market. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute. ISBN 9780896291263. 
  13. ^ El-Alfy, T. S.; Ezzat, S. M.; Sleem, A. A. (2012). "Chemical and biological study of the seeds of Eragrostis tef(Zucc.) Trotter". Natural Product Research. 26 (7): 619. doi:10.1080/14786419.2010.538924. 
  14. ^ Belay, G.; Tefera, H.; Tadesse, B.; Metaferia, G.; Jarra, D.; Tadesse, T. (2006). "Participatory Variety Selection in the Ethiopian Cereal Tef (Eragrostis Tef)". Experimental Agriculture. 42 (1): 91–101. doi:10.1017/S0014479705003108. 

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