Eragrostis tef (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Eragrostis tef (Zuccagni) Trotter

Family: Gramineae


  • Poa tef Zuccagni,
  • Poa abyssinica Jacq.,
  • Eragrostis abyssinica (Jacq.) Link.

Vernacular names

  • Teff (En).


Teff is native to Ethiopia, where it is the most important cultivated cereal. It has been introduced into other parts of the world, mainly as an important forage grass (e.g. in southern Africa, India and Australia).


In Ethiopia, the grains are ground to flour and primarily used to make a kind of large, sour-tasting pancake (injera), which with a spicy sauce (wot) forms the basic diet. The grains are also used to make porridge, unleavened bread, cake and beer. The grass, including its hay and straw, is an excellent forage. The straw, mixed with clay, is also used to construct houses, stoves and granaries.


  • Annual, tufted grass, 60-120 cm tall with erect, slender, glabrous culms.
  • Leaf blade linear, 25-45 cm × 0.1-0.4 cm.
  • Inflorescence a loose open panicle, 15-35 cm long; branches very slender, long, drooping, alternate; spikelet usually 5-flowered, small, about 8 mm long.
  • Caryopsis extremely small, 1-1.5 mm × 0.75-1 mm, white or reddish brown, 2500-3000 per g.

Ethiopia is the only country in the world that grows teff as a cereal crop which is also preferred above all other grains. Teff is cultivated at altitudes of (1300-)1900-2100(-2800) m with average growing temperatures of 25-28°C, and average annual rainfall of 400-2500 mm. Teff has a C4-cycle photosynthetic pathway. Heavy loams are preferred, but soils should have good permeability and not be subject to surface crusting which kills off delicate young plants. To prevent the tiny grains being washed away, shallow trenches are dug 3-6 m apart before sowing to ensure quick drainage of water. Young plants display some tolerance of waterlogging. The advanced crop is tolerant of drought. Teff is little affected by diseases and pests. The growth period varies from 2-4 months. Yield ranges from 300-3000 kg/ha, averaging 800 kg/ha. Per 100 g edible portion the grain contains approximately: water 11.2%, protein 9.1%, fat 2.2%, carbohydrates 74.3%; it is rich in Fe and Ca. The grain can be stored for many years in traditional store houses without being damaged by insects. There are many cultivars, and the white-grained ones are preferred; in Ethiopia 2225 germplasm accessions are available.

E. pilosa (L.) P. Beauvois is considered to be the possible ancestor of teff and is widespread in the tropical and warm temperate areas of the Old World, including South-East Asia where it is used as a forage. As a famine crop and as an extremely palatable forage, teff might be of interest for the cooler parts of South-East Asia.

Selected sources

3, 12, 17, 20, 21, 27, 29, 34.


  • H.N. van der Hoek & P.C.M. Jansen