Thursday, July 12, 2012

Teff Shows Promise as New Summer Forage Alternative

Livestock producers often need a summer forage alternative that will fill the gap during the hot summer months. Traditionally the summer forage options include sorghum, sudangrass and millet according to Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“An emerging warm season annual forage called teff has gained interest lately,” said Schnakenberg.

Known as a Summer Lovegrass (Eragrostic tef), teff originates in Ethiopia where it has been grown as a grain crop.  Recent research in Oregon, South Dakota and Kentucky has shown that it can be a viable option for American farmers as a forage crop.

“Teff will not compete with sudan or millet for tonnage produced but has potential to be a higher quality forage.  Some have compared its quality to timothy, making it a forage that can be appealing to horse owners,” said Schnakenberg.

In 2009, the University of Kentucky evaluated nine varieties of teff at two locations. Yields in Lexington averaged 1.6 tons per acre and 3.1 tons in Princeton.

From these trials, the yield potential may not be high, though Oregon yields have ranged between 4 and 6 tons per acre. More testing will give a better picture of its yield potential in Missouri according to Schnakenberg.

“Its use may be more suited for hay or silage production over grazing,” said Schnakenberg.  “There have been some reports of cattle pulling up the plants during the initial grazing.  The roots appear to be better anchored for grazing later in the summer.”

Teff is not tolerant of frost so it will only last one growing season. 

The seed is very small and can be planted at a rate of four to six pounds of raw seed per acre.  If coated seed is used it can be planted at eight to 10 pounds per acre.

It should be planted on a firm prepared seedbed from late May through June.  No-tilling is an option but may be a challenge controlling the depth.

“This forage needs further testing before it is adopted on a large scale.  However it has potential to give producers another tool for a summer annual forage crop that has some appealing traits over sudangrass and millet,” said Schnakenberg.

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