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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Teff

By Ray Hansen, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, hansenr@iastate.edu.

Reviewed April 2012.

Overview

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is an annual cereal grain native to the African country of Ethopia. It can be cultivated in a wide range of conditions, from marginal soils to drought conditions. However, teff is most commonly grown in the Ethopian highlands. With a relatively short growing season, teff produces a crop that provides grain for human food consumption and fodder for cattle.

Teff grain is tiny when compared to wheat; it takes 150 grains of teff to equal one kernel of wheat. Teff is an excellent source of protein, amino acids and fiber. For instance, a 2-ounce serving of teff has 7 grams of protein, equal to an extra large egg. Teff is higher in calcium and iron content than wheat, rice, oats or millet.

Traditional Use

For thousands of years, teff has been a staple grain in Ethiopia. Teff flour is used to make the Ethiopian flat bread known as injera, described as a soft, porous, thin pancake with a sour taste, which provides approximately two-thirds of the diet in Ethopia. It is also used as an ingredient for porridge; puddings; baked goods such as cookies, crackers and breads; soups; casseroles; and home-brewed alcoholic drinks. Teff straw is used to reinforce thatched roofs and mud and plaster walls. Teff's chief value as a hay crop lies in its high nutritive value, high yield, rapid growth, drought resistance and ability to smother weeds.

U.S. Use

In the United States, teff largely remains an experimental crop, with a limited number of acres grown for grain or as a late-planted livestock forage (See South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service article listed below). Specialty mills process the grain into flour for retail sale. There is growing interest in teff within the health food sector because the grain is gluten-free, making it an alternative to wheat, rye and barley. Because of its high mineral content, teff is used in mixtures with soybean, chickpea and other grains in the baby food industry.

Links

  • Alternative Agronomic Crops, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), NCAT, 2000 - This publication provides an overview of the considerations involved in selecting, cultivating and marketing an alternative crop.
  • Crop has deep roots for black Kansas farmers, USA Today, 2005.
  • Gluten-Free Food Labeling, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2005 - Teff was one grain discussed during this public meeting.
  • Market Potential for Nevada Teff Products, University of Nevada, 2008 - Current teff producers in Nevada initiated this study to determine the best course of action for the further marketing of their product. The report provide a brief summary of the product, a competitive analysis of the teff flour market, a market analysis of the current and most likely users of teff flour, and the results of a market survey.
  • Northwestern Nevada Teff Production Costs and Returns, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 2008 - This publication is intended to be a guide used to make production decisions, determine potential returns and prepare business and marketing plans.
  • Putting Teff to the Test, Southern State, 2009 - Nutrient, seeding and harvesting information.
  • Teff, Alberta Agriculture and Food, Canada, 2007.
  • Teff: A New Annual Forage Grass for South Dakota?, South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service, updated 2002.
  • Teff as Emergency Forage, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, 2007 - Teff has value as a summer annual cover crop to reduce erosion, as a green manure crop that returns nutrients to farm soils, as a stand-alone annual hay crop for market and as a rotational break crop that helps renovate perennial grass or alfalfa stands or pasture.
  • The Teff Company - This U.S.-based company sells teff and teff flour online.
  • Teff Grass: Crop Overview and Forage Production Guide, Producers Choice Seed - This practical guide  for growers includes origins, teff grass uses, nutrition and yield information.
  • Tons Of Teff, Hay and Forage Grower, 2005.
  • Tracking Teff, Hay and Forage Grower, 2009. 

 
Links checked November 2013.

 

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