Teff is a self-pollinated, annual grass growing 40–80cm tall. It has a shallow fibrous root system with fine stems which are mostly erect, although some cultivars are bending or elbowing types. It has a panicle-type of flower showing different forms, from loose to compact, with the latter form having a spike-like appearance.
The flowers of teff have both the male and female parts in the same floret. Its grain is tiny measuring 0.9–1.7mm long and 0.7–1mm wide. 150 teff grains weigh as much as one grain of wheat. Its colour varies from white to dark brown.
The species is one of the major cereal crops in northern African countries, such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it has been consumed for thousands of years. It has also been used as a fodder crop for animals in these countries for many years. There is a growing interest in teff as both a human food and animal fodder in western countries.
Teff has a grain protein content similar to other cereals (10–12%) and is a good source of many minerals, having high levels of iron, calcium, phosphorus, copper, aluminium, barium and thiamine. Teff flour is used in breads, gruel, cakes and homemade beverages. As teff is gluten free it is considered a ‘health grain’ and has growing potential in the gluten free market.
Teff produced for human consumption is a new industry in Australia and much of the agronomic information comes from the USA where it is grown as a summer crop. Australian cultural practices and marketing are still being developed. It has been grown in experimental quantities in areas of Tasmania and around Tamworth in northern New South Wales.
Teff is classified as a developing industry in Australia and faces a number of challenges which are commonly posed to new industries, including developing facilities for commercial processing and establishing critical volume to develop an industry body.
Facts and figures
- Teff is a member of the grass family
- It originated in the highlands of Ethiopia where it has been consumed for thousands of years
- It can be used as a gluten free grain source for human consumption or a high value fodder source for animals
- Facilities need to be developed for commercial processing and market development needs to be undertaken for Teff in Australia for human consumption
There is currently no published production information about teff in Australia.