The millet known as tef (Eragrostis tef) is a minor cereal crop on a global scale, but a major food grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 2003–2004, for example, this grass was planted on around 2 million hectares, accounting for 28% of the 8 cereal crops grown in Ethiopia, and yielded more than 1.5 million metric tons. Tef can be grown under a wide range of conditions, including situations not suitable for other cereals. However, the national average yield of tef is very low, less than one metric ton per hectare, and the development of higher yielding cultivars would be very beneficial. The primary use of tef is for grinding into flour to make injera, the spongy fermented flat bread that is a staple food for most Ethiopians. In addition, the vegetative portions of the plant are an important source of fodder for livestock. Tef and several other Eragrostis species have been introduced to many other African countries, India, the United States, and Australia, mainly as specialty foods and forage crops. (Ayele et al. 1996; Zeller 2003; Yu et al. 2006 and references therein; Yu et al. 2007)
Tef has been grown in the Horn of Africa for at least 2,000 years. The domestication history of tef appears to be different from that of some other cereals (a factor which may explain the difficulty encountered in identifying many Eragrostis seeds in archaeological samples). In contrast to the domestication of many grains, selection of large seed size and intensified tillage were not key factors in tef domestication. Early cultivators were likely selecting for increased branching and higher percentage seed set under conditions of minimal tillage. (D'Andrea 2008)
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Native of Ethiopia; now spread to Tropical Asian countries
State - Kerala, District/s: Idukki, Alappuzha"
Distribution in Egypt
Nile region and oases.
Tested as a forage grass in Egypt and occasionally found as a casual. Cultivated cereal (Tef) only in Ethiopia, introduced elsewhere for forage and often escaping, under trial in some parts of the world as a possible gluten-free alternative to wheat.
Life History and Behavior
Evolution and Systematics
Systematics and Taxonomy
The direct wild progenitor of Eragrostis tef is generally believed to be E. pilosa, a weedy species that occurs throughout the world in tropical and temperate regions and is common in Ethiopia. The only documented and consistent morphological distinction between E. pilosa and E. tef is spikelet shattering. The multi-floreted spikelets of E. pilosa readily break apart at maturity as a natural mechanism of seed dispersal, whereas the lemmas, paleas, and caryopses of E. tef remain attached to the rachis at maturity, which facilitates harvesting. Because of its importance in allowing farmers to control seed dispersal, the transition from shattering to non-shattering is one of the most common features seen in the domestication of grains. (Ingram and Doyle 2003)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Yu et al. (2006) constructed and analyzed an expressed sequence tag (EST) library as a resource for genetic research on tef. All tef cultivars that have been assessed are tetraploid, with a base chromosome number of 10 (2n = 4x = 40). The genome size of tef is roughly 50% larger than that of rice, small enough that it should be amenable to molecular mapping and analysis. (Ayele et al. 1996) Yu et al. (2007) mapped agronomically important quantitative trait loci for use in marker-assisted breeding programs.
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eragrostis tef
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Tef has been grown in the Horn of Africa for at least 2,000 years. The domestication history of tef appears to be different from that of some other cereals (a factor which may explain the preponderance of indeterminate Eragrostis seeds in archaeological samples). Selection of large seed size and intensified tillage were not key factors in tef domestication. Early cultivators were likely selecting for increased branching and higher percentage seed set under conditions of minimal tillage. (D'Andrea 2008)
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 the northern Ethiopian Highlands and Eritrean Highlands of the Horn of Africa. The word "tef" 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. 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, growing season rainfall of 450 to 550 mm, and a temperature range of 10 to 27 °C. 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 tayta, and less so in India and Australia. It is now raised in the U.S., in Idaho in particular, with experimental plots in Kansas. In addition to people from traditional teff-consuming countries, customers include those on gluten-restricted diets. 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.
Between 8,000 and 5,000 BC, the people of the Ethiopian highlands were among the first to domesticate plants and animals for food and teff was one of the earliest plants domesticated. Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4,000 BCE and 1,000 BCE. Genetic evidence points to E. pilosa as the most likely wild ancestor. 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.
Cultivation and uses
Teff has been widely cultivated and used in the countries of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Teff accounts for about a quarter of total cereal production in Ethiopia. The grain can be used by celiacs (the gluten in teff does not contain the a-gliadin-fraction that causes a reaction in those with celiac disease) and has a high concentration of different nutrients, a very high calcium content, and significant levels of the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum, iron, copper, zinc, boron and barium, and also of thiamin. Teff is high in protein. It is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition, including all 8 essential amino acids for humans, and is higher in lysine than wheat or barley. Teff is high in carbohydrates and fiber. In one 2003–2004 study in Ethiopia, farmers indicated a preference among consumers for white teff over darker colored varieties. Teff is gaining popularity in the western United States as an alternative forage crop, in rotation with a légume such as alfalfa, because it uses C4 photosynthesis, similar to that of corn. It is noted for its high quality and high yield, when compared to other forage rotations. 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. 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.
Teff has been used to produce gluten free beer.
- Lewis Aptekar (2013) In the Lion's Mouth, XLibris LLC, ISBN 978-1-4836-9519-8
- 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.
- "Idaho farmers may try teff Gluten-free grain touted as cure for celiac disease" (Mar 13, 2003) Montana Department of Commerce
- Murphy, Denis J. People, Plants, and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
- Ingram AL, Doyle JJ (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.
- Germer, Renate (1985). Flora des pharaonischen Ägypten. Mainz: von Zabern. ISBN 3-8053-0620-2.
- Gabre-Madhin, Eleni Zaude. Market Institutions, Transaction Costs, and Social Capital in the Ethiopian Grain Market. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2001
- "Teff and Gluten Intolerance". Food Lorists. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- 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.
- 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: 91–101. doi:10.1017/S0014479705003108.
- "Teff As An Irrigated Alternative Forage" (Mar 11, 2012) Hay & Forage Grower
- Don Miller (2009) "Teff Grass: A New Alternative", UC Davis, California
- Cannarozzi 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.
- "Producing gluten–free beer" (Press release). Campden BRI. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
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