Project to be taken up in 3 Assam areas
Tea Research Association and London-based Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International have joined hands to develop a more ecological approach to tea production in order to reduce pesticide application.
“The project will eventually lead to development of a toolbox of tried and tested practices to facilitate transition towards ecological production. The project envisages the development of a package of practices in relation to pest management, leading to the adoption of non-pesticide control methods resulting in reduction of pesticide application in tea,” N. Muraleedharan, director of Tocklai Tea Research Institute, said.
The three-year programme will start in Assam in collaboration with the Tocklai institute and tea growers from three different areas – Upper Assam, south bank and north bank. “The bureau had approached us to conduct the project as we are the experts in tea research,” he said.
The bureau is an international not-for-profit organisation that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems of agriculture and the environment.
On an average, a garden spends Rs 8,000 per hectare on pest control measures and this amount can go up when pest infestation becomes huge.
“Three pest management systems will be demonstrated representing transition from conventional to non-pesticide management. Pest management practices selected from those identified in the literature and field studies and ready for validation from current research, will be implemented in these experiments. Experiments within these blocks will evaluate other innovations to be added to the arsenal of practices available. The major pests such as loopers, tea mosquito, thrips, green hoopers and termites will be the target depending on their prevalence in the three selected zones,” Muraleedharan said.
He said with the introduction of the Plant Protection Code, the tea industry is increasingly adopting non-chemical control measures because the choice of approved chemicals is limited. The industry has started using light traps, sticky traps, manual collection and bush sanitation as non-chemical methods.
“India is the second largest producer and exporter of tea in the world after China. This production and trade are powerful engines for economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security, but often, harnessing this power can be difficult. Tea crops suffer from a range of pests and diseases for which pesticides are the main solution but this results in increased production costs and potential risks to human health,” a statement from the bureau said.
“We are evaluating the environmental and economic feasibility of applying alternative methods to manage tea pests and diseases in India. The scientific teams are doing this by fostering better understanding of these ecological approaches to management, evaluating current practices and examining how these alternative approaches can be integrated into tea production to raise overall sustainability of tea production,” it said. This will ultimately look to tackle pests in a sustainable and alternative way, protecting tea growers, workers and the surrounding biodiversity, it added.
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