Teff, believes Roberts, could benefit California forage producers, as well as horse owners. It produces a premium quality hay for a wide range of livestock. It has been called an “emergency forage” for dairies that face sudden feed shortages. It could fit well where dairymen can use manure to fertilize it.

It yields 1.5 to 2 tons per acre per cutting.

Teff originated in Ethiopia where it has been documented as a grain crop for human consumption sometime between 4000 B.C. and 1000 B.C.

Its grain produces a gluten-free flour.

It has only been in the past decade, however, that Teff has been the focal point for a possible new U.S. forage crop. Plant breeders like Don Miller of Cal West have been working on new varieties and perfecting management techniques. Miller has been researching the crop since 1995.

Roberts believes the annual grass crop has potential in the San Joaquin Valley as a double crop after corn or wheat. It can also be used as a rotation break crop when rotating an older alfalfa stand and as a forage mix to extend the life of an older alfalfa stand.

“It likes the heat of summer in the valley,” said Roberts.

It is a relatively low water user, needing only about 2 acre feet of water for a full season of up to six cuttings a year, according to Roberts. University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension forage specialist Jay Davison says Teff requires 50 percent to 70 percent as much water as alfalfa to produce an economic crop.

It would require less than 2 acre feet as a double crop, which Robert says would get three or four cuttings before cold weather stopped growth. It is not cold tolerant and requires annual seeding. It reportedly does well in a wide range of soil conditions from acid to alkaline.

According to Miller, Teff has produced 1.5 to 2.5 tons of forage in 45-55 days. It germinates quickly in three to five days.

The CSUF Teff field was disked, rolled and seed planted dry under a center pivot at the rate of 8 to 10 pounds per acre.

“The seed is very tiny — half the size of alfalfa seed. There are roughly 1.5 million seeds in a pound,” Roberts said.

Planting depth is critical. Miller says planting one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch deep in a firm seedbed is optimum. Planting a half-inch deep could result in stand failure.

Miller said Teff’s fertility requirements are low, 30 to 50 pounds of N per cutting. Roberts concurs. It may need other nutrients in certain conditions.

Roberts said CSUF will continue to evaluate Teff, but he believes it shows promise, as a relatively low input summer forage crop.

hcline@farmpress.com