Tips for tea plant management for a healthy plantation:

Tea plant management is the most important aspect of tea plantation. If we allow it to grow naturally, tea will become a medium type tree. Manufacturers produce produce tea commercially from young shoots of Camellia sinensis. However, in commercial tea plantation, the planter keeps the plant in the form of a bush with flat surface. He keeps the plant in this shape in order to keep the plucking easy, and also to stimulate development of more new shoots.

Favorable climate conditions for tea

The tea plantation needs a moderately hot climate with reasonable humidity. Climatic condition has a great impact on the crop distribution. It also impacts the quality and quantity of the yield. Therefore, while planning tea plantation in a new area, never forget to consider the climatic condition of the area. This is one of the most importance aspect of tea plantation.

Soil condition

For tea plantation, consider the soil with the following qualities:

a. It should be fertile as well as have some acidic quality, and

b. It should have decent elevation and proper drainage facility.

Plant quality

The following factors have a great impact on the quality of the made tea. They are:

a. age of the bush,

b. standard of plucking,

c. plucking round, and

d. stage from previous pruning

The above factors plays a pivotal role on the quality of the tea shoot. This in turn plays a major role on the quality of the made tea.

tea plant management - close view of tender tea plantsHence, for sustaining a high rate of production, proper tea plant management is of utmost importance. A well-managed young tea plant is an investment for the future. The following are a few important aspects of proper growing of young teas:

I. Density of Population:

Depending on the type of planting materials used, a planter can plant a total of 15,000 to 16,000 plants per hectare if he use compact frames. On the other hand, if he uses spreading frames, a plant population of 14,000 to 15,000 should be sufficient.

II. Spacing:

Minimum spacing required between plants = 60 cm;  Maximum spacing required between rows = 100 cm. You will find a guideline on spacing and bush population in Table-1. But, the actual population will be 5 percent lesser than the calculated one.

Spacing and Bush Population:

SpacingCalculated plants/ha
100 cm X 60 cm16666
105 cm X 60 cm15873
105 cm X 65 cm14652
105 cm X 70 cm13605
105 cm X 75 cm12698
110 cm X 60 cm15161
105 cm X 75 cm X 70 cm15238
105 cm X 75 cm X 75 cm14814
105 cm X 70 cm X 60 cm17316
105 cm X 70 cm X 65 cm16806
110 cm X 70 cm X 70 cm15873
110cm X 75 cm X 70 cm14815
110 cm X 70 cm X 65 cm16326
110 cm X 70 cm X 60 cm16806

III. Choice of Planting Materials:

Do not normally allow a single jat/clone to exceed 10 percent of the estate area. Select a judicious blend for yield and quality clone/jat for a good result.

IV. Nursery Plants:

Use sleeve size of 15 cm x 22 cm for filling up sleeves as per the following specifications:

a. Stem thickness: 0.5 – 0.8cm,

b. Height:  40-45cm,

c. Foliage:  12-16 leaves/plant

V. Planting:

A. Pit size:45cm X 45/60cm
B. Planting mixture per pit:
i. Well rotten dry cattle manure:4-5 kg
ii. Single Super Phosphate:30 gram
iii. Rock Phosphate:30 gram
Points to be noted:

  1. Place Rock phosphate at the bottom of the bheti.
  2. Place the Single Super Phosphate at about 5 cm above the ground level after mixing with the excavated soil.
  3. Use granular systemic insecticide like Phorate @ 2.5 gram/plant and E. C. formulation like Chloropyriphos/Endosulphan generally at the time of planting. This offers protection against soil borne diseases.

VI. Bush Frame:

The planter can form the frame in three stages whic are:

(a) decentering, lung prune or debudding,

(b) formative prune 20-26 months from planting and

(c) frame formation.

The objectives of decentering, lung prune, debudding and formative prune are to suppress the apical dominance. The permanent frame is formed at a height which will ensure optimum coverage of the ground. The planter shall ensure that it is at 35-40 cm above the ground. Keep in mind, spacing and the jat of tea shall influence the height of the permanent frame.  Normally planters do not prune tea below this height during its economic life.cup of tea preapared with lemon after proper tea plant management

There are three basic methods by which the apical dominance of the main stem is diverted to develop spreading lateral branches. These are as follows:

A. Decentering:

The planter removes the main stem at a height of 20 cm from the ground. However he performs this operation only after the plant makes a flush of growth and when the plants are in banjhi.

B. Lung prune or Thumb prune:

The stem is half broken at about 20 cm from ground level in such a way that the tissues of one side is left intact. This ensures that water and nutrients move without any obstruction. The planter bends the broken portion towards the ground facing either South or West depending on row direction. He shall remove the broken portion as soon as the branches below it produces flush and go banjhi.

C. Debudding:

In this case buds above 20 cm from the ground are removed.

VII. Methods of Bringing up of Young Tea:

The methods of bringing up of young tea varies for draughty and non draughty areas. For hilly areas a lower level of pruning and tipping are practized. These are discussed below:

A. For non drought areas:

YearMonthOperationPlucking
+0October - DecemberPlant teaAllow to grow
+1Early February - Mid April (soon after establishment)Thumb prune or decentre at 20 cmTip at 60-65 cm ground measure
+1June-July (i.e. at the time of tipping)Selectively remove strong criss-cross branchesDo
+1End OctoberStep up a leaf if necessaryDo
+2-UnprunePluck to janam
+3End January-Early FebruaryFirst Frame Forming prune at 35-40 cm. Remove strong thick central branches, if necessaryTip at 60-65 cm
+3End OctoberStep up a leaf if necessaryDo
+4-UnprunePluck to janam
+5End January-Early FebruaryFinal Frame Forming prune at 40-45 cm. Remove strong thick central branches, if necessaryTip at 65-70 cm

B. For drought areas:

YearMonthOperationPlucking
+0April-JunePlant teaAllow to grow
+0July- August (soon after establishment)Thumb prune or decentre at 20 cm. Selectively remove strong crisscross branches at the time of tipping.Tip at 60-65 cm ground measure
+1-UnprunePluck to janam
+2End January-Early FebruaryFirst Frame Forming prune at 35-40 cm. Remove strong thick central branches, if necessaryTip at 60-65 cm
+2End OctoberStep up a leaf if necessaryDo
+3-UnprunePluck to janam
+4End January-Early FebruaryFinal Frame Forming prune at 40-45 cm. Remove strong thick central branches, if necessaryTip at 65-70 cm

** In severe drought areas instead of leaving the unpruned in +1 year, first frame forming prune at 35-40 cm is suggested.

tea plant management - close view of tea plants

C. For Hilly areas: Low elevation:

YearMonthOperationPlucking
+0June-JulyPlant teaAllow to grow
+1Jan-FebDecentre/thumb prune or debud at 15-20 cm. Selectively remove strong crisscross branches at the time of tipping.Tip at 60-65 cm ground measure
+2-UnprunePluck to janam
+3Jan-FebFirst Frame Forming prune at 35-40 cm. Remove strong thick central branches, if necessaryTip at 55-60 cm Pluck to janam
+3July- AugStep up a leaf if necessaryDo
+4-UnprunePluck to janam
+5JanuaryFinalFrame Forming prune at 40-45 cm. Remove strong thick central branches, if necessaryTip at 60-65 cm

tea plant management - tea poured from pot served with cookiesD. For Hilly areas: Medium/High elevation:

YearMonthOperationPlucking
+0June-JulyPlant teaAllow to grow
+1Jan-AprilDecentre/ thumb prune or debud at 15- 20 cm. Selectively remove strong criss-cross branches at the time of tipping.Tip at 50-55 cm ground measure
+1Early SeptemberStep up a leaf if necessary
+2-UnprunePluck to janam
+3Jan-FebFirst Frame Forming prune at 30-35 cm. Remove congestion selectivelyTip at 50-55 cm Pluck to janam
+3Early SeptemberStep up a leaf if necessaryPluck to janam
+4Early SeptemberUnprune. Step up a leaf if necessaryPluck to janam
+5-UnprunePluck to janam
+6JanuaryFinalFrame Forming prune at 35-40 cm. Remove congestion selectivelyTip at 60-65 cm

Pruning cycles should be followed after Final Frame Forming Prune in all the cases.

 Article contributed by Dr. Atul Chandra Sarma

Also read Pruning and Skiffing in Tea by the author