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 Ethiopia and Eritrea.[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, 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 keyta, 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.[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

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]

File:Mashella ena Teff.JPG
Teff and sorghum, ingredients for Tella

Teff has been widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia and neighborhood countries. Teff accounts for about a quarter of total cereal production in Ethiopia.[9] Teff is gluten-free (and therefore can be consumed by people suffering of gluten-related disorders) 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

Teff is a main ingredient for preparing Tella, a traditional beer from Ethiopia. It has also been used to produce industrial gluten free beer.[16]


  1. Lewis Aptekar (2013) In the Lion's Mouth, XLibris LLC, ISBN 978-1-4836-9519-8
  2. 2.0 2.1 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. "Idaho farmers may try teff Gluten-free grain touted as cure for celiac disease" (Mar 13, 2003) Montana Department of Commerce
  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. People, Plants, and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  7. 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. 
  8. Germer, Renate (1985). Flora des pharaonischen Ägypten. Mainz: von Zabern. ISBN 3-8053-0620-2. 
  9. Gabre-Madhin, Eleni Zaude. Market Institutions, Transaction Costs, and Social Capital in the Ethiopian Grain Market. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2001
  10. "Teff and Gluten Intolerance". Food Lorists. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  11. 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. 
  12. 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. 
  13. "Teff As An Irrigated Alternative Forage" (Mar 11, 2012) Hay & Forage Grower
  14. Don Miller (2009) "Teff Grass: A New Alternative", UC Davis, California
  15. 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. 
  16. "Producing gluten–free beer" (Press release). Campden BRI. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 

External links