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A new paradigm in boosting orphan crops to super grains: Linking metabolomics and gene editing to improve Teff for global food security and sustainable agriculture

Project description

Regional crops a competitive alternative to cereal crops

The rising demand in cereal crops for edible or bioenergy use leads to the exploration of the nutritional values of orphan crops. Orphan crops are crops important on a regional level but absent from the global market. Teff is an edible crop known in Ethiopia for its high nutritional value and its resistance to hard climate conditions. The EU-funded SUPERTEFF project aims to study the possibilities of transforming teff from an orphan crop to a globally competitive super crop. Study outcomes will offer a new sustainable solution for producing super crops that addresses our concerns about global food security and sustainable agriculture.


Food security is one of the prime concerns of the world as the production is affected by increase in demand for cereal crops as food and bioenergy resources. In order to maximize productivity, one strategy is to identify and improve indigenous crops (orphan crops) which are often ignored. Orphan crops (e.g. teff, millet) possess better nutritional and adaptive traits than other cereal crops (e.g. rice, wheat). Teff, Ethiopia’s most important indigenous cereal crop is recently gaining attention among farmers and consumers over other cereals due to its natural gluten-free nature and its adaptation to tough environmental conditions. The high market price for its grains and straw make it a valuable cash crop but has received less attention on research and funding. The main objective of “SUPERTEFF” is to apply omics and gene editing strategies for the improvement of teff. The key objectives of the study are (1) characterization of disparate teff germplasm for agronomically important traits using image-based phenomics (2) to explore the nutrient diversity in teff cultivars using high-throughput metabolomics (3) metabolite-genome-wide association studies (m-GWAS) to understand the genotype to phenotype relation (4) to develop a CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing platform in teff with prime focus to lodging. The proposed study will provide a new paradigm in linking metabolic status to gene expression and will provide valid targets for CRISPR gene editing strategies in teff to convert it from an orphan crop to a super crop which will bare comparison to other established cereal crops. The outputs of this project will result in bridging the gap between orphan crops and other cereal crops in terms of sustainable yield and resilience to environmental conditions, whereby addressing the growing concerns of farmers and consumers across the globe. This project aims to strengthen the EU economy, by placing it in the fore-front of global food security and sustainable agriculture.


Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
SY23 3BF Aberystwyth
United Kingdom

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Wales West Wales and The Valleys South West Wales
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 224 933,76