Seed World

McKena Lipham Wants You to Know About Teff


Before Seed World‘s Marc Zienkiewiz sat down with her at the annual meeting of the National Association of Plant Breeders in Ames, Iowa, last month, he’d never heard of teff. Lipham specializes in the underutilized cereal crop that is actually consumed by a whopping 90 million people, mostly on the African continent.

Lipham is a Ph.D student working in the horticulture department at Michigan State University (MSU). She received her B.S. in Applied Biotechnology from the University of Georgia before moving to MSU to pursue a Ph.D in horticulture and plant breeding. Her dissertation is focused on the discovery of agronomic, domestication, and climate resilience traits in teff. She aims to explore the untapped genetic diversity of crops that are often globally neglected and highlight their potential as more sustainable, agrobiodiverse alternatives. 

“It’s an Ethiopian grain and it is very culturally and economically important in Ethiopia, Eritrea and other places around the world, but most important in Ethiopia. For my research, I’m interested in characterizing a couple of different traits, but really just providing some molecular markers, some resources for future breeding material in teff,” she says.