Teffgrass: Fast growing, competitive forage quality

Karla A. Hernandez SDSU Extension Forages Field Specialist
Farm Forum

Teffgrass is a summer annual forage for livestock and commercial hay producers who often need a fast growing forage with competitive forage quality. There has been a growing interest in teff as a forage crop because its ability to produce higher biomass in short time during the growing season.

Teffgrass grows well in many environments and soil types. It should be planted when soils are about 65oF. The best months to seed teffgrass are late May to July. A firm seedbed is important when sowing teffgrass, with a shallow sowing depth between 1/8 and ¼ inch. Seeding deeper than ½ inch will cause stand failure. Several studies have shown that with favorable temperatures and moisture will help teff germination within three to five days after planting.

Teff is also considered to be a low input crop, requiring minimal fertilization. Plantings following alfalfa may not require additional nitrogen for the first harvest. However, it is important to understand that production after a small grain may need nitrogen application for the first harvest. Typically, total seasonal supplemental nitrogen could range anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds per acre depending on yield production. It is not recommended to over apply nitrogen as a fertilizer due to lodging occurrence. In case of lodging a yield reduction is expected.

What are other reasons to plant teffgrass?

1. It can be used as an emergency forage and rescue crop.

2. To supplement hay during months with forage shortage.

3. To double cropping following cereal grain such as wheat.

4. It can be used as a rotational crop after alfalfa.

5. Soil erosion control.

6. As a green manure crop.

7. To extend production months of an old alfalfa stand (more than 4 years).