Scientists have mapped the genetic diversity of teff, an ancient grain originally from Ethiopia, and a staple crop for 50 million people in the country.

Teff has been increasingly popular worldwide, touted as a superfood for its gluten-free, high fiber and protein, and low-sugar properties. However, future climate scenarios predict a decrease of the crop's cultivation suitability in Ethiopia, with a model predicting teff cultivation to diminish by 2070.

 

In a study published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, the scientists have, for the first time, mapped the grain's massive diversity, consisting of 3,850 known types from across Ethiopia. Each has unique characteristics, or "traits," allowing them to cope with different environmental conditions.

 

Depending on the areas where they are grown, varieties might be heat or drought-tolerant; or produce more grain. Now, that information has been pinpointed by researchers and stored in individual "passports" for each type, which can be used to breed more resilient varieties. Teff can withstand temperature extremes from 2°C to 38°C; some varieties cope with almost 2,000mm of annual rainfall; others only tolerate 542 mm. There are red, brown, and white types, each containing varied nutrients and flavors that are used for different dishes.

 

More details available in this article, or read the paper's highlights and abstract in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.