|
|
|
Morning Sun
  • NEWS IN AGRICULTURE: Teff, the Lovegrass Your Animals Will Love

  • Which crop has the smallest seed? Our local staples corn and soybeans are obviously not in the running. Wheat is small, but is it smaller than sorghum? If we are talking forages, alfalfa is incredibly tiny, but even alfalfa seed is larger than this crop. The smallest seeded crop in the world is called teff (Eragrostis tef), a warm season annual lovegrass native to Africa.

    • email print
  • Which crop has the smallest seed? Our local staples corn and soybeans are obviously not in the running. Wheat is small, but is it smaller than sorghum? If we are talking forages, alfalfa is incredibly tiny, but even alfalfa seed is larger than this crop. The smallest seeded crop in the world is called teff (Eragrostis tef), a warm season annual lovegrass native to Africa.
    From 2008 to 2010, I was the Project Coordinator for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant promoting the growth of teff in the Nicodemus, Kansas area. Why Nicodemus? History buffs would know that Nicodemus is a town near the Rooks and Graham County lines in Northwest Kansas founded by freed slaves. The descendants of those freed men and women formed the Kansas Black Farmers Association (KBFA) in 1999, and they sponsored the grant proposal.
    Teff was chosen for the grant because the KBFA traced their lineage back to Ethiopia in the horn of Africa. Teff is the staple crop of Ethiopia. After grinding the tiny seeds, they make a spongy flatbread called injerawhich they eat nearly every day. Teff flour is growing in popularity here in the U.S. because it is gluten free and very nutritious.
    The intention of the grant was to grow teff for grain production. It was quickly discovered that grain harvest was very difficult due to the extremely small seed size. However, the side effect of this discovery was that teff was shown to be an excellent forage crop.
    Teff is an extremely quick growing plant. After planting, hay harvest can occur in as little as 45 days. Due to this, teff should be recognized as a great emergency livestock feed option. While teff is well suited for haying, it is not suited for grazing due to its shallow root system. Interestingly, teff has shown that it can tolerate both drought conditions and water-saturated times as well.
    There are multiple ways of planting teff. In general, teff requires good seed to soil contact ideally with a fairly firm seedbed. If producers are planning on drilling the crop, the teff seed should be ? inch or less deep in the soil. The seed can also be drop seeded as long as it is followed with a very light harrowing.
    Teff is very intolerant of cold temperatures so planting should be delayed until all threat of frost has passed. As mentioned before, teff is incredibly fast, both to maturity and simply emerging. Under good conditions, producers should expect emergence within a week of sowing, possibly even within four or five days.
    The ideal planting rate will depend on what the producer’s seed source is. Untreated seed should be planted around 8 pounds per acre. Some seed companies have released treated versions of teff varieties. These will require slightly higher planting rates (up to 10 pounds or so), but they are treated to make planting the tiny seed simpler.
    Page 2 of 2 - As far as fertility goes, a producer in Central Oklahoma who has been growing teff for over 20 years fertilizes his teff fields exactly how he would fertilize his wheat fields. I must point out that he is growing his teff for grain, so producers who are aiming for maximum forage potential should consider additional nitrogen applications between cuttings.
    Teff hay has very fine leaves and fine stems with a quality similar to cool season hay crops. Because of this, it is very palatable for both cattle and horses. For such a small seed, it can pack quite a forage punch.
    If you have questions or would like more information, please call me at the office (620) 724-8233, or e-mail me at jcoltrain@ksu.edu, or visit the Wildcat Extension District website at www.wildcatdistrict.ksu.edu.
     

        calendar