Tea Farming Guide:
Today, we learn the topic of tea farming, cultivation practices in India.
Introduction of Tea:
Tea is the dried leaf of a bush and contains theine and when added to boiling water along with milk and sugar, it gives an aromatic and stimulating drink. Tea is one of the most important beverage crops in India. It is also popularly known as “Chai”.
Tea plantations were confined to Upper Assam only but later on, new areas such as lower Assam and Darjeeling were also opened up to tea cultivation, there were 35 tea plantations in Assam alone. Later on, tea cultivation started in Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, Tarai along the foothills of the Himalayas and in some area of Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
Health Benefits of Tea:
Some of the health benefits of Tea are listed below.
- Tea contains abundant antioxidants.
- Tea has less caffeine compared to coffee.
- Tea may help in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Tea may help the immune system.
- Tea may protect against cancer.
Agro-Climatic conditions for Tea farming:
Tea plantation requires a moderately humid and hot and climatic condition. Tea plantation thrives well in humid an hot weather condition. As climate impacts crop yield, crop quality, One should consider the local climate for tea plantation. The optimum temperature range for tea plant growth is 20° to 33°C and temperatures above 35°C and below 10°C can damage the tea plants growth.
Tea plantation requires well-distributed rainfall from 150 cm to 300 cm throughout the year. Tea plantation is a shade loving plant and grows more vigorously when it planted along with shady tree areas.
Soil requirement in Tea Farming:
Tea plantation thrives well in deep, well-drained, friable loamy soils. Virgin forest soils that are rich in humus and iron are the best-suited soils for tea plantations and a large proportion of potash and phosphorus in the main soil gives a special flavor to tea as is the case in Darjeeling. Waterlogging will damage the plants, so make sure there is an easy way of draining the soil. As part of Soil/Land preparation in Tea plantation, a good dose of nitrogenous fertilizers like ammonium sulfate and organic matter should be added to the soil. Soil acidic pH should be in the range of 4.5 to 5.5.
Read: Tea Powder Making Process.
Planting of Tea:
This is a very delicate operation and needs adequate planning and proper supervision. Correctly planted tea plants establish in the field quickly, grow vigorously and come into full bearing earlier. On the other hand, a slight error during planting can cause a high percentage of mortality or permanent setback to the plants.
Time of Tea Planting:
Planting can be done in April-June and September-October or October-November with adequate irrigation. Periods of heavy rains should be avoided.
Type of plants used for planting:
Only healthy plants 40 cm to 60 cm high with at least 12 good mature leaves and of pencil (0.5 cm) thickness (at the collar) should be taken for planting in the field. In general, 9 – 12-month-old plants attain this stage. Sub-standard plants should be discarded. Before plants are removed from nursery, they should be hardened by gradual exposure to full sun. Transportation of the plants to the planting site in the field should be done with the utmost care and only after proper labeling.
Type of Tea planting:
There are two types of planting: 1) pit planting 2) trench planting.
Pit planting of Tea Farming:
This method is followed when the spacing between plants is wide enough to allow digging of individual pits of the proper size and without much difficulty. Pits should be about 45 cm wide and 45 cm deep, circular and straight walled. Smaller pits restrict root growth and retard shoot growth and development. The excavated soil is conditioned by mixing with 4-5 kg well-decomposed cattle manure or 150-200g well-decomposed oil cakes and returning the soil into the pits. No other manure is used except 30 g rock phosphate and 30g SSP at the time of planting.
Trench planting of Tea Farming:
This method is adopted for closer spacing and in heavy soils. Trenches 30 cm wide and 45 cm deep are dug along the rows. The excavated soil is conditioned and returned back as in case of pits and tea is planted directly on the trenches.
Method of planting:
There are two methods of planting, for plants raised in nursery beds. They are bheti planting and stump planting.
Here, the plants are lifted along with the bheti and the roots intact from the nursery bed. This is convenient with plants grown in polythene sleeves, which reduces difficulty in transportation, reduce root damage and gives a very high percentage of survival. The polythene is removed carefully by slitting the tube and the bheti is held in the pit half-filled with the conditioned soil in such a manner so that the top of the bheti is flushed with the ground surface. 30g rock phosphate is added at the bottom of the bheti and the pit is filled with soil with adequate ramming. At about 5 cm depth 30g SSP is added around the bheti and the pit is filled up to the collar of the plant with soil. Adequate ramming is necessary to prevent sinking of the pit level later, which will cause localized waterlogging. The same method can be used for plants grown in sleeves.
Read: How to Make Clove Oil.
Plants are lifted from the nursery bed without having any soil around the roots. The shoot portion is cut off 15-20 cm from the collar and the excess roots trimmed off before putting them into the pits. This method is generally followed by overgrown nursery plants and has the advantage of easy transport and reduced chances of withering after planting. However, the percentage of survival is much less than bheti planting.
Spacing in Tea Farming:
About 14000-16000 (up to 17000 in hilly areas) plants per hectare have been found to be an ideal bush population with a spacing of 105-110 cm between rows and 60-75 cm between plants. The planting can be done either as a single or double hedge.
Method of Tea Cultivation:
Usually, Tea Plantations/Gardens are set up on the cleared hill slopes where shade trees are already planted in advance. Tea seeds are sown in the germination beds and the saplings transplanted to the garden.
The Tea Plantation is regularly hoed and weeded so that tea bush grows without any hindrance. In Tea Gardens, using manures and fertilizers is a common practice and oil cakes and green manures are widely used in its cultivation
Pruning in Tea Farming:
Pruning is an important task and should be carried out to maintain the proper shape of tea bush to a height of about 1 m with about the same diameter. The objective of pruning is to have new shoots bearing soft tea leaves in plenty and to make comfortable plucking of tea leaves from the ground.
Irrigation in Tea Farming:
Sprinkler irrigation is the most widely used method in tea gardens of North East India. Drip irrigation is confined to seed baris.
Harvesting of Tea leaves:
Tea plantation requires intensive labour for plucking the tea leaves, get some cheap labor for harvesting this crop.