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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review

Intensification and semi-intensification of tef production in Ethiopia: applications of the System of Crop Intensification.


Future strategies for sustainable food security will need to get greater productivity from available land, labour, water and other resources, producing more food, as much as possible, with reduced inputs. The System of Crop Intensification (SCI) which emerged from an agroecological production strategy developed for rice in Madagascar in the 1980s has shown promise in various countries for raising the yields of diverse crops with less reliance on purchased external inputs, using less seed and needing less water because of enhanced root growth and soil improvement. Here we review the adaptation and application of SCI principles to increasing the production and availability of Ethiopia's most important indigenous grain crop, tef. National production of this staple food, which is essential for the country's food security and is also nutritionally very beneficial, has increased in recent years since the government started supporting extension of new crop management methods after the supply of and demand for tef had become quite imbalanced. Contributing to this increase are modifications of the tef cropping system: the System of Tef Intensification (STI), which is one of many SCI derivations, and a less-intensified version designated as TIRR (Tef with Improved seed, Reduced seed rate, and Row planting). STI, which is based on transplanting tef seedlings rather than broadcasting tef seed, requires considerably more labour than farmers' current methods, and weather conditions must be conducive. However, the greater production from STI practices can more than repay the investment of additional labour if farmers are willing and able to make such expenditure, and if the timing of rains permits. TIRR is a less labour-demanding methodology based on drilling tef seed in rows with wide spacing. It is now being promoted by the government to raise national tef production. While it does not improve yield as much as STI does, it is easier for Ethiopian farmers to adopt. Both STI and TIRR modifications capitalize more effectively on the limited resources available to smallholding households which produce tef as their main staple crop for sustenance and for sale. TIRR includes the promotion of improved varieties of tef, while STI has shown improved yield with practically all varieties. These crop management methods draw on existing potentials within tef plants and in the soil systems where these plants grow.

CAB Review details

  • History
  • Published: 24 January 2018
  • ISSN
  • 1749-8848
  • Publisher information
  • CABI Wallingford UK
  • Record Number
  • 20173385334