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The Hawassa Innovator team has been very busy developing row planting technology for Teff. Here you can read what they have done in 2011.

Background on Teff
Teff (Eragrostis tef) is an endemic and unique crop to Ethiopia and staple food for the majority of Ethiopians. It occupies the largest proportion of cultivated crops (2.8 Million kg in 2011) and about six million households are engaged in Teff cultivation in Ethiopia. Despite its popularity as a food crop, its productivity is very low (national average of about 1.2 tons/ha) mainly due to difficulties in its management. It is a delicate and fragile crop that requires a lot of care starting from land preparation up to harvesting. It has tiny seeds and hence sowing is made using the methods of broadcasting. This results in non-uniform distribution of seeds in farm fields contributing to low yield. Still, Teff continues to be a favorite crop of the Ethiopian population and the crop is also gaining popularity as a health food in the western world, since it a gluten free crop.

In the picture above you can see a field of teff (left) and the harvested teff grains (right)

Problem definition through PRA
The Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) study conducted by CASCAPE-South indicated that the productivity of Teff can be improved through adoption of modern technologies and improved production practices. The technology  package  includes  the use of improved Teff varieties, recommended agronomic practices and row planting.To validate this, the Hawassa Innovator team conducted an experiment on farmers’ fields focusing on determination of yield advantage of Row planting over broadcasting of Teff. An improved variety called ‘Kuncho’ was used and all other agronomic practices were kept uniform except the method of sowing. We found that, broadcasting of Teff using seeding rate of 30 kg/ha gave an average yield of 1.5 tons/ha while row planting with seed rate of 10kg/ha gave 3.05 tons/ha. This highly significant increase in yield has motivated farmers to apply row planting. However, manual row planting of Teff is a laborious task that requires a lot of time and labor. On the other hand, row planting technologies are not yet developed that simplify the task.

Row planter
Thus, Hawassa University took the initiative in the development of row planter for Teff and contacted the Biosystems and Environmental Engineering department of the university to develop a prototype row-planter that is applicable to the smallholder farmers. The team headed by Engineer Mihret Dananto developed three different samples for testing, of which one was proved to perform better in respect to seed distribution and ease of handling. In the meantime the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture, through its Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), was also looking for appropriate Teff row planter for mass production at national level. To this effect, it was collecting different prototypes produced by Research organizations and the private sector, for evaluation and further improvement. Hawassa University’s CASCAPE project was invited to send the sampler and to the project's surprise the CASCAPE row planter was among the top five best-performers selected for refinement, out of the three dozens of samples submitted from the different parts of the country. The prototype is currently being refined by the ATA, and the Engineering team of Hawassa university is also working on its refinement using the feedback from the national engineering panel which did the evaluation. The plan is to use the planter during this year's Teff growing season.

In the picture below you can see the prototype of the row planter. Seed is transported through the tubes from the seed container box to the planter which is used to create a furrow, A long narrow trench, in which the seed can fall. The row planter can be pulled by an animal and a handle sticking out at the end of the planter can be used by a perosn to guide the row planter along its way.