Tef is a basic food crop in Ethiopia due to its specific agronomic capabilities. It is possible to harvest tef after a first cereal harvest in the same year (NRC, 1996). Tef may be used as an emergency crop when harsh conditions occur. Farmers can still sow tef when their other crops are failing, and harvest grain after only two months, thereby gaining some relief from famine (NRC, 1996).
Tef is propagated through seeds and should be used in sole cropping systems as it does not withstand intercropping (Ecocrop, 2016). Tef is commonly grown in rotation with cereals, pulses and niger (Tefera et al., 2006). It requires a weeded, well-prepared, firm seed-bed. It can be planted, broadcast or sown at 15-20 kg/ha, in rows, no deeper than 1 cm, and subsequently rolled (Ecocrop, 2016; Tefera et al., 2006). It must be regularly weeded. N fertilizer should be provided in small amounts, or tef should be sown after an N-legume in order to reduce the risk of lodging. Tef requires little care after establishment and its rapid growth outcompetes weeds. It suffers few diseases and pests attacks. In Yemen, it is considered a "lazy man's crop" as it does not require any care between sowing, after flash flooding, and harvesting (NRC, 1996).
Tef is one of the fastest maturing cereal crops. Grain maturity occurs 2 months after sowing in very early-maturing types, 3-9 months after in early-maturing types, and 6 months after in late-maturing types. Tef maturity is indicated by the yellowing of the stalks bearing the spikelets (NRC, 1996). Harvesting after physiological maturity may result in seed shattering, especially in windy and wet conditions. In Ethiopia, harvesting is done between November and early January. Tef is hand-harvested. The plants are cut at ground level with sickles and then transported to the threshing ground (Tefera et al., 2006). Threshing is done by animal trampling or by using threshers. All grains cannot be completely removed from the straw (Seyfu Ketema, 1997; Alemayehu Refera, 2001). Tef straw is soft and fast drying (NRC, 1996).
Grain and straw yields
Tef grain yield ranges from 0.2 to 2 t/ha. Tef straw yield, which is reported be about 3 times that of the grain, should, therefore, range from 0.6 to 6 t DM/ha (Lyddon, 2015; Alemayehu Refera, 2001).