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Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers

TeffTeff

Teff PDF file

Teff, the staple grain crop in Ethiopia, is a warm-season grass useful for suppressing weeds with a high plant population. Teff also produces a fine plant structure that doesn't leave soil clumpy for the next crop. Although buckwheat and sudangrass are the most common cover crop choices in the summer, teff holds some advantages over them. Teff tolerates dry conditions better than buckwheat or sudangrass. It also requires less maintenance: buckwheat must be controlled when it matures and sudangrass requires mowing. Teff needs minimal mowing and generally does not produce seed, so volunteers are not an issue.

Land preparation
Use a firm seedbed, as with alfalfa,so that the tiny seeds stay near the surface. Make sure you can walk on the soil without creating footprints. The soil needs 40-60 lb/ac nitrogen, so follow a high-nitrogen vegetable or manure application.

Seeding rate
5-8 lb/ac raw seed or
8-10 lb/ac coated seed.
Use the higher rate if moisture is uneven.
Teff has tiny seeds, about 1.3 million/lb. Use Brillion seeder or broadcast followed by roller to press seed into soil. Use a light vehicle for planting because passes will be close together.
Plant at a depth of 1/8 - 1/4 inches. Teff needs frequent light rain to emerge quickly.

Seeding date
June-July.

Seed Source
King's Agriseeds, PA, Hankins Seed, OR. Approximately $3-4/lb.
Seedway provides coated seed for $4/lb.
For cover cropping, the available varieties are similar.

Maintenance
Mow 3-4 inches every 7-8 weeks so that it doesn't go to seed.

Control
Winter kills.

Tips
Roll or pack before seeding. If broadcasting, check to see how far the seeds are going.
Seedlings are relatively drought-tolerant after 3 weeks.
Teff is used to make high-quality hay. One cutting can be taken in late summer.