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Teff (Eragrostis tef)

Teff ( Eragrostis tef )

Order : Sweet grass (Poales)
Family : Sweet grasses (Poaceae)
Subfamily : Chloridoideae
Genre : Love grasses ( Eragrostis )
Type : Teff
Scientific name
Eragrostis tef
( Zuccagni ) Trotter

Teff , Tef or dwarf millet ( Eragrostis tef , Amharic ጤፍ ṭēff , Tigrinya ጣፍ ṭaff ) is a plant species within the sweet grass family (Poaceae). The natural range is in Ethiopia and Eritrea , but the species is also grown in other tropical and subtropical areas, where it is also often wild. The seeds are gluten-free and rich in essential fatty acids . This type of millet is the most important grain in Ethiopia, where it is processed into flatbread and beer and used as fodder.


Appearance and leaf

Teff is an annual , tufted, upright grass that is 30 centimeters to 1 meter high . The mostly upright, simple or branched stalks reach heights of growth up to 90 cm and have no glands. The nodes (nodes) are bare.

The foliage leaf is divided into leaf sheath and leaf blade. The leaf sheath is bare. The ligule has a line with hairs ( trichomes ). The simple, bare leaf blade is 6 to 30 cm long and 2 to 4 mm wide and straight, flat or rolled up; it has no glands.

Inflorescence, flower and fruit

The inflorescence is a 10 to 50 centimeter long, contracted or open, often overhanging panicle with long panicle boxes. The branches are arranged whirling in the lower part of the inflorescence , all others above are not whirling. The spikelets stand on 4 to 9 mm long, slender, thread-like stalks. The branches are bare or thinly distributed with long and fine hairs. The top spikelet is also fertile. With a length of 5.5 to 9 millimeters and a width of 1.5 to 2 millimeters, the spikelets are narrow, elongated and slightly flattened to the side.

Spikelets of Eragrostis tef

Each spikelet contains four to twelve flowers . The flowers remain on the spikelet axis for some time. The unequal glumes are almost half the length of the adjacent lemma . There are no awns . The keeled, glabrous in outline, lanceolate, have a pointed or pointed upper end; the lower ones are 1.2 to 2.5 mm long and the upper 1.7 to 3 mm long. The keeled, thin-skinned lemma is elongated-elliptical to elongated-ovoid with a length of 2 to 2.7 mm and has distinct side nerves. The palea wilts late with the lemma. The palea is glabrous on the sides and its keel is slender, wingless and rough. The three anthers are 0.3 to 0.6 mm long.

The whitish or dark red-brown caryopses are oval or oblong and swollen and 1 to 1.5 millimeters long. The caryopses remain in the mature spikelets.

Set of chromosomes and ancestry

Teff has allo tetraploidy with 2n = 4x = 40. The basic chromosome number is therefore x = 10. The origin of this type of cereal from diploid wild forms within the species-rich genus Eragrostis is unknown.


The original distribution area of ​​teff was the northeast and eastern tropical Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The dwarf millet comes from the highlands of Abyssinia , where it is preferably grown as a grain at altitudes between 1000 and 3000 meters. It is also cultivated outside of its range in tropical and subtropical zones and is often overgrown in mid-latitudes.


It was first published in 1775 under the name ( Basionym ) Poa tef by Attilio Zuccagni in Dissertazione Ditef . The new combination to Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter was published in 1918 by Alessandro Trotter in Bolletino della Società Botanica Italiana , p. 62; he placed this species in the genus Eragrostis . The specific epithet tef comes from Amharic and is used in Ethiopia for the dwarf millet.

Further synonyms for Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter are: Poa abyssinica Jacq. , Poa radicans Moench , Poa cerealis Salisb. nom. superfl., Cynodon abyssinicus (Jacq.) Raspail , Eragrostis abessinica (Jacq.) Link orth. var., Eragrostis abyssinica (Jacq.) Link , Poa flaccida Moench ex Steud. pro syn., Eragrostis pilosa subsp. abyssinica (Jacq.) Ash. & Graebn. , Eragrostis abyssinica var. Alba Hochst. ex Chiov. , Eragrostis abyssinica var. Viridis Hochst. ex Chiov. , Eragrostis pilosa var. Tef (Zucc.) Fiori , Eragrostis tef f. spiciformis Serp. , Eragrostis tef subsp. spiciformis (Serp.) Portal & H.Scholz .


Below are the only 1-1.5 mm long closing fruits of teff and then lying 4-5 mm sorghum grains, ingredients for making Tella

Teff seeds are gluten-free and rich in essential fatty acids . Despite their small size, they are the most important grain in Ethiopia and Eritrea and are ground into bread or groats . Teff flour is the basis for the Ethiopian and Eritrean national dish Injera , a pancake-like flat bread that is eaten with vegetable and meat dishes. Teff is also the basis for the production of tella , a beer, and other alcoholic beverages such as B. Katikalla . Whitish seeds are preferred as bread grain; the brown-seeded varieties are used as fodder and are used to make beer. The straw of the plants is a valued fodder.

Calorific value and ingredients

100 grams of Teff have a calorific value of 1,541.4  kJ (= 367  kcal ). The same amount has the following ingredients:

ingredients proportion of
water 8.8 g
protein 13.3 g
fat 2.4 g
carbohydrates 73.1 g
Fiber 8.0 g
Total sugar 1.8 g
sodium 12.0 mg
potassium 427 mg
Calcium 180 mg
phosphorus 429 mg
magnesium 184 mg
iron 7.6 mg
Vitamin E , tocopherol 0.08 mg
Vitamin B1 , thiamine 0.39 mg
Vitamin B2 , riboflavin 0.27 mg
Vitamin B3 , niacin 3.4 mg
Vitamin B6 , pyridoxine 0.48 mg


The sowing takes place mostly in the rainy season. The plants grow quickly and need little water. Teff is harvested around three months after sowing.

The seeds are very small (less than 1 mm in diameter, a thousand grain mass of 0.35 to 0.47 g). This property makes Teff particularly suitable for semi-nomadic ways of life, because the seeds for large areas can easily be carried in luggage. In Ethiopia the average yield is around 9 dt / ha . The best varieties deliver up to almost 30 dt / ha. For several years there has been a successful cultivation from offspring in the Netherlands. Teff has also been cultivated in Germany recently. In Europe, the yield is between 7 and 13 dt / ha, depending on the climatic conditions of the year.


The infestation with the rust fungus Uromyces eragrostidis is economically important .

Controversy over patent applications

The Dutch company Health & Performance Food International BV filed a European patent on teff flour in 2004. With this type of patent application, a patent is filed centrally with the European Patent Office, but individual national patents are created. The Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture raised an objection to the German patent; However, this was rejected and the patent was granted in January 2007. In 2019, the Düsseldorf lawyer Anton Horn filed for an action for annulment , whereupon the patent owner waived his patent for Germany.

Identical patent applications for the USA and Japan, on the other hand, have been abandoned due to a lack of prospect of success or have not yet been approved 16 years after filing.


  • Thomas A. Cope : Gramineae. In: Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 10, 1999. (Section Description)
  • Bernd Nowak, Bettina Schulz: Pocket dictionary of tropical crops and their fruits . Quelle & Meyer, Wiebelsheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-494-01455-5 , p. 262-263 .
  • Helmut Genaust: Etymological dictionary of botanical plant names. 3rd, completely revised and expanded edition. Nikol, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-937872-16-7 , pp. 46, 232, 632 (reprint from 1996).

Individual evidence

  1. a b c German names according to Nowak, Schulz: Pocket dictionary of tropical useful plants and their fruits , p. 262
  2. a b c d e Nowak, Schulz: Pocket dictionary of tropical useful plants and their fruits , p. 262
  3. a b c d e f g h i j Thomas A. Cope : Gramineae , In: Flora Zambesiaca , Volume 10, 1999.
  4. Amanda L. Ingram & Jeff J. Doyle: The origin and evolution of Eragrostis tef (Poaceae) and related polyploids: evidence from nuclear waxy and plastid rps161 , In: American Journal of Botany , Volume 90, No. 1, 2003, pp. 116-122. Full text online. doi : 10.3732 / ajb.90.1.116
  5. a b Rafaël Govaerts (Ed.): Eragrostis tef. In: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) - The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  6. a b c d Nowak, Schulz: Pocket dictionary of tropical useful plants and their fruits , p. 263
  7. Poa tef. In: Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). United States Department of Agriculture, accessed February 28, 2013 .
  8. Entry in Tropicos.
  9. To be precise: Etymological dictionary of botanical plant names. P. 632
  10. Waldemar Ternes (Ed.): Food lexicon. Behr's Verlag DE, 2005, ISBN 3-89947-165-2
  11. Nutritient database, USDA, accessed September 5, 2018
  12. Woubit Dawit, Yeshi Andnew: The study of fungicides application and sowing date, resistance, and maturity of Eragrostis tef for the management of teff rust ( Uromyces eragrostidis ) . In: Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology . tape 27 , 2005, pp. 521-527 , doi : 10.1080 / 07060660509507253 (English).
  13. Patent EP1646287 : Processing of teff flour.
  14. The Teff patent: 'A giant injustice'. Legal Tribune Online (LTO), August 9, 2019, accessed August 12, 2019 .
  15. Patent US2006286240 : Processing of teff flour ..
  16. Patent JP2006527996 .

Web links

Commons : Teff ( Eragrostis tef )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files