Drought-resistant tea clones to tackle climate change

New tea clones released recently by Tea Research Association (TRA), Tocklai, Assam. Photo by TRA

Tea growers in Assam and Bengal, contributing nearly 75% of the country’s total tea production, can now heave a sigh of relief about the declining rainfall, mainly due to climate change.

Tea Research Association (TRA), world’s oldest tea research centre at Tocklai in Assam’s Jorhat district has come up with two more drought-resident tea clones, which would be more productive and give better quality tea even in the drought-like situation.

A clone is a vegetatively propagated plant from the stem. The Tocklai-centre, set up in 1911, had released the first tea clone in 1949. Till now, 33 vegetative clones and 153 garden series have been released by the institute.

One of the new clones listed as TV 34, is an Assam-China hybrid with uniform growth habit and light green shoot. The clone is more tolerant to drought as compared to controls. “Based on field, factory and laboratory assessment, TV 34, has been found having high yield potential with very good cup quality for CTC. The other, TV 35 is good for both CTC and orthodox tea manufacture,” said Joydeep Phukan, secretary of TRA. TV 35 is a China hybrid with a semi-erect growth habit.

“These new tea clones can produce 3,000kgs per hectares whereas the average per hectares productivity at present is around 2,100 kgs per hectares. These new clones are more tolerant to drought over the popular clones used by the tea industry. The clone for the orthodox will enhance India’s capacity for orthodox production, which are primarily for exports,” he said.

A dip in rainfall between 25% to 49% between January to March in the past few years have affected high quality first flush tea production in April-May. Scientists cited climate change as the main cause of rainfall variation, while a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation has called for the planting of the drought-tolerant clone as an adaptation measure.

Assam produces nearly 50% of the country’s total tea production, while the orthodox tea grown in Darjeeling in Bengal has more demand in international markets. The new clones will soon be available for planters, mainly in the Northeast and Bengal, Phukan said.

 

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Drought-resistant tea clones to tackle climate change

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