Teffgrass is a warm season, annual grass, native to Ethiopia and has much more of a history as a gluten-free grain for flour rather than as a forage crop. However, in the past few years, forage producers in the US have tried teffgrass and have had excellent success with it as a summer hay crop. Teff is similar in appearance to bunch grasses such as orchardgrass and tall fescue and it is capable of multiple harvests throughout the summer months. The seeds of teff are very small, containing approximately 1.3 million seeds per pound. However, it is an aggressive competitor once established. Teff grows well with minimal amounts of soil moisture and produces excellent quantities of hay with good quality and palatability similar to timothy. Teff has hay opportunities as a stand-alone grass hay crop, an emergency hay or haylage crop that can be planted in mid-summer or a rotation break crop when renovating a perennial grass or alfalfa stand.
Teff is very fine stemmed; thus, delaying harvest until after the seed heads are extended will often cause teff to lodge. To minimize lodging and optimize forage quality, teff should be harvested in the late vegetative stage, just prior to emergence of the seed head (pre-boot or Stage 9). Cutting height of 3 to 4 inches is necessary in a multiple cut system to promote vigorous regrowth. Cutting heights lower than this will significantly slow regrowth. Teff is very shallow rooted; thus, grazing livestock is not recommended as livestock may pull plants out of the ground. If grazing is desired or necessary, cut the first growth of teff for hay. This will allow root systems to become more established and better anchored in the ground.
Teff has been successfully no-tilled drilled and broadcast seeded. It is extremely important to have a very firm seedbed prior to planting and if broadcast seeded and to culti-pack again after seed is spread to ensure good seed to soil contact and good seedling growth. Teff is a warm season grass and does not tolerate frost, nor does it establish well in cool soils. Planting should not occur until soil temperatures consistently reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the threat of spring frost has past. Seeding rates for coated seed should be 10-12 lbs per acre. Teff seed is very small and should be planted no deeper than ¼ inch. Planting depths deeper than recommended will result in poor emergence. As with any crop, good fertility practices can mean the difference in having a mediocre crop or a very good one. Nitrogen should be applied at planting at a rate of 50 units of N per acre. No additional N is needed for the second harvest, but an additional 40 units should be applied immediately after second harvest if a third harvest is desired. P and K should be applied at planting as recommended by a soil test.