Scientists conducted the study entirely in Ethiopia without exporting any seed. Co-authors included researchers from the Institute of Life Sciences at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy and the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.
"A remarkable thing with teff is that Ethiopia is not among the biggest teff exporters in the world. This is due to manifold reasons, one of which is the fact that teff cultivation is not yet at par with modern means of production," said Ermias Abate Desta, a co-author from ARARI.
"Assuming compliance with international regulations for access and benefit-sharing (e.g., Nagoya protocol), Ethiopia would benefit from the spread of teff as a global crop because it has an enormous reservoir of teff traits that are not present anywhere else in the world," he added.
The teff research is part of a broader interaction between Bioversity, Scuola Sant'Anna, and Ethiopian institutions that includes other crops. Research focuses on smallholder farmer agriculture in Ethiopia.
Compared to globally important crops, teff is understudied and is considered an "orphan" or underutilized crop. But teff research is attracting the attention of international institutions and scientists, including from Italy's Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna.
Ongoing teff research is aimed at characterizing the genetic diversity of a core collection of teff landraces - or farmer-selected varieties that have evolved over generations - and better understand their agronomic potential as it relates to traits desired by farmers.
This includes breeding new teff varieties with increased yield, resistance to pests and climatic and other abiotic stresses, and traits desired by local farmers.
"These actions involve public and private breeding efforts as well as national and international bodies concerned with the conservation of agrobiodiversity of teff in the wake of climate change," said Matteo Dell'Acqua, a co-author from Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna.