Teff grass is a niche summer crop and farmers will be hoping it stays that way with the threat of it becoming more of a commodity if it becomes popular.
Those were the thoughts of managing director and agronomist Roger Wakefield, of Echuca-based company Kober.
‘‘In a nutshell we are excited about it, but it is — and for some time still will be — a niche crop,’’ Mr Wakefield said.
‘‘It is still a niche crop, and if it remains niche it will remain profitable.
‘‘If it becomes more mainstream the crop will be more commoditised.’’
Mr Wakefield said teff was a long way from being mainstream like other summer crops such as maize.
‘‘Certainly in our region, we have seen double the hectares.
‘‘In our region it is a long way from being mainstream and is miles and miles away from sorghum, maize and corn.
‘‘Miniscule hectares (have been grown) compared to these.’’
Despite it being a niche crop, it may see better results than other summer crops, with humid conditions and wet weather ideal conditions for growing the African crop.
‘‘Humidity and summer rain will be good in general (for teff) as long as it hasn’t just been irrigated,’’ Mr Wakefield said.
Although conditions may favour the crop, due to the seed’s tiny size, it is near impossible for growers to use the seed season after season.
‘‘The problem is the seed doesn’t hold germination,’’ Seedforce’s national trading manager David Gould said.
‘‘Farmers are harvesting and selling it because it has no germination,’’ he said.
Mr Wakefield agreed.
‘‘We are definitely seeing that,’’ he said.
‘‘It has a poor shelf life for germination. We only buy in what we have pre-ordered.’’
Invergordon farmer Luke Felmingham, who is growing 70ha of the ‘‘world’s smallest grain’’, said there was a growing market for low sugar hay fodder for horses, something Mr Wakefield said was the reason for most of his clients growing it.
‘‘Low sugar hay generally is sought after for horses with laminitis, Cushing’s (equine Cushing’s disease) and insulin resistance issues,’’ Mr Felmingham said.
‘‘The other main thing is it is a good diet for ponies.
‘‘There is low sugar native grass hay but they are not as consistent as this product.’’
He said teff gave horse owners who needed low sugar hay an alternative to soaking other hay varieties.
‘‘Traditionally you have to soak hay for horses for 30 minutes, then rinse it and then give it to them.’’