SYSTEM OF TEFF INTENSIFICATION (STI)
- SRI Concepts and Methods Applied to Other Crops -
Tef has been the preferred cereal grain in Ethiopia for several thousand years. Its very small seeds (2,500 per gram weight) are ground into a fine flour for making the most popular national food, injera, a pancake-like/crepe-like bread eaten with a meat or vegetable stew. Tef has long been grown by broadcasting seed fairly densely, in the hope of getting a higher yield. This in fact is a waste of seed because it actually lowers yield -- because plant roots must compete for nutrients and do not grow well, easily and often lodging from wind and/or rain.
Dr. Tareke Berhe, for many years senior rice advisor for the Sasakawa Africa Association based in Addis Ababa, began extrapolating SRI methods to the growing of tef, which is currently in very short supply relative to demand in Ethiopia. He was the first agronomist to hybridize teff, and he did a post-doctoral fellowship at CIMMYT, so his scientific credentials are very solid. He has found that by transplanting young seedlings of tef, 20x20 cm, instead of broadcasting, employing more careful soil and water management and enhancing soil organic matter, while also using some amounts of inorganic nutrients to remedy soil deficiencies, he can raise tef yields by multiples, much as seen with SRI rice. Several years of trials are paying off as seen in the 2012 photos of tef grown with what is now becoming knows as the System of Tef Intensification (STI).
Usual grain yields from tef in Ethiopia are around 1 t/ha; in controlled trials in 2009, with different versions of SRI methods, the yields were 3-5 tons per hectare, and even higher yields were obtained when certain micronutrients (such as S, Mg, Zn, Cu) were applied to the soil along with some NPK. These yield levels obtained were ones never seen before with tef.
A report on the first-year trials is posted on this website, along with a PPT presentation made at the seminar on STI that Dr. Berhe gave at Cornell in July 2009. During 2010, Berhe continued conducting STI trials at several locations in Ethiopia, and Oxfam America offered additional funding to support further validation and refinement of STI methods. As reported by Norman Uphoff in a 2012 presentation, 7,000 farmers are now using the full STI methods in Ethiopia and another 100,000 farmers have widened their spacing (although they are not transplanting as with full STI) (see page 16-17 of the booklet accompanying is his talk, Raising Smallholder Food Crop Yields with Climate-Smart Agroecological Practices.