Tef (Eragostis tef) and finger millet (Eleusine coracana) are both cereal crops that originated in East Africa. They belong to the Chloridoid sub-family of the grass family (Gramineae), and are hardy, resilient crops that exhibit good tolerance to abiotic stress, and produce small-sized grain with superior nutritional and storage characteristics. Both crops are of strategic importance to the food security of millions of African smallholder farmers; tef is the major staple food in Ethiopia while finger millet is an important traditional food crop in several Eastern, Central, and South African countries. These two crops, however, are among the least studied of the cereals in terms of crop improvement.The CCRP has previously funded crop improvement projects on both tef and finger millet. Since the two crops share many similarities, the CCRP recently held a workshop that brought the tef and finger millet project researchers together for the first time. This meeting led to the formation of a new research alliance; East African researchers decided to bring the two crops together under one research project in hopes of taking advantage of the potential for transferring knowledge and experiences from one crop to another.The new project, “Genetic improvement, technology dissemination and seed system development in African chloridoid cereals,” has identified four main areas for research and development, namely:Development and promotion of improved varieties and agronomic practices. The tef group is targeting a number of traits, including early maturity, reduced lodging, and improved grain yield and quality. The finger millet group will initially focus on resistance to head blast (caused by the fungus, Pyricularia grisea) and to the root parasite, Striga hermonthica. Improved agronomic practices to be promoted for finger millet include row planting, fertilization, and reducing plant populations.Molecular genetics. This will be aimed at developing a set of breeder-friendly PCR-based markers for lodging and other important traits in tef, as well as for tracking the adoption and dissemination of the tef varieties developed.Tef and finger millet seed systems. The objective of this component is to develop sustainable, community-based seed production and supply schemes for both crops.Value-added products and farmer empowerment schemes. The group intends to evaluate the income generating potential of ready to use flours (both tef and finger millet) and schemes that can help farmers succeed at commercializing finger millet production (i.e. revolving loans for fertilizer inputs).
The goal of this project is to increase tef and finger millet productivity and income generating possibilities.