WARM SEASON GRASSES
Teff is an annual warm-season grass native to Ethiopia. In recent years, forage agronomists and producers have become increasingly interested in its potential contribution as a hay crop. It is characterized by a fairly large crown, many tillers, fine stems, a very shallow root system, rapid growth and high tonnage capability. Though teff's annual nature requires that it be reseeded each growing season, it potentially can be integrated into forage programs in a variety of ways. Some possibilities include using it as:
- A stand-alone grass hay crop for commercial sales or on-farm use.
- An emergency hay or haylage crop that can be planted in mid-summer.
- A rotational hay crop that can be planted after cereals or annual ryegrass are harvested.
- A break crop when renovating a perennial grass or alfalfa stand.
- A grass component planted into a thinning alfalfa stand.
Excellent stands can be achieved using either no-till or conventional seeding methods. However, broadcasting teff seed into a very firm, prepared seedbed may be the best option in field environments where tillage is environmentally acceptable. The importance of a "firm" seedbed cannot be overemphasized and since teff seed is extremely small, it should be planted at a depth of only 1⁄4 inch or less.
Teff seedings should not be made until the soil temperature has consistently reached 64 degrees F. The recommended teff seeding rate is generally 4 to 5 pounds per acre when using Teff uncoated seed. However, most teff seed currently on the market is coated, which needs to be planted at a higher rate of 10 to 12 pounds per acre.
Teff should be fertilized with phosphorus and potassium at rates comparable to other forage grasses grown in the region. As for teff's nitrogen needs, we recommend split applying a total of 80 to 100 units of N per acre during the season. Apply the first 50 units at planting and then apply the remaining N after the first or second harvest.
Teff is very fine stemmed. This is a bene t with respect to forage quality and palatability; however, the fine-stemmed nature of the crop can also cause lodging problems if it is not harvested at the proper maturity stage. To avoid lodging, teff should be harvested in the late vegetative stage, just prior to seed head emergence at a cutting height of 3-4".
Teff's maximum yield potential and quality expectations are not yet completely known. Two harvests per year have been relatively commonplace and many producers have reported three to four harvests per year. We have seen individual harvests yield as much as 2 to 2.5 tons of dry matter per acre. However, single harvests of approximately 1.5 tons dry matter per acre are probably more typical, with total yields for the growing season ranging from 4-5 tons DM/acre.
Teff is not recommended as a grazing crop due to its very shallow root system. Grazing animals are likely to pull substantial numbers of teff plants out of the ground as they graze. If grazing is necessary, producers should wait until one to two hay harvests have been completed before grazing to allow roots more time to develop and become more anchored in the soil.
- Small-seeded annual grass
- Fine leaves
- Very good for dry hay
- Very palatable for both horses and cattle
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