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Adaptation to climate change in tea mooted

By Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, May 27 - Tea growing regions in India�s NE region, Kenya and Sri Lanka are �quite vulnerable to climate change and adaptation measures are needed to fight this challenge.�

This above was stated by the report of the Working Group on Tea on Climate Change of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), referring to the advanced modelling studies conducted by the Tea Research Association�s (TRA) Tocklai Experimental Station using general circulation models.

According to Joydeep Phukan, secretary of TRA, this report was released at the 22nd session of the Intergovernmental Group on Tea of the FAO held at Naivasha, Kenya between May 25 and 27. India chairs the FAO Working Group on Climate Change on Tea and it is supported by Sri Lanka, China and Kenya.

The report further states that the current adaptation measures need to be fine-tuned further because of modelling studies to include adaptation measures on a macro as well as micro scale �� downscaling to tea garden scale level. The results of these modelling studies should be translated by clustering gardens and small holders in a region and adaptation measures should be adopted in a region by all stakeholders together.

In the report, authored by Dr RM Bhagat of India, Dr M A Wijeratne of Sri Lanka, Dr John Bore of Kenya and Dr Wenyan Han of China, gives a roadmap for adaptation measures for the tea industry in these countries. Some of the key suggestions include development of cultivars suitable for drought and water-logging tolerance, besides more reliance on seed-based high-yielding quality cultivars by major TRIs.

It also suggests steps to improve soil properties stating that quality of organic matter is more important. However, anything and everything added as organic matter may not help completely, it warns.

Maintaining that fertilizers are indispensable for higher yield, it therefore underlined the need to undertake integrated nutrient management. It further underscored the need for in situ conservation of water in addition to farm reservoirs, for life-saving irrigation.

There is also a need for providing adequate shade, shelter belts in tea gardens, while taking all possible measure to create humid conditions to fight protracted drought condition. Moreover, it calls for steps for capacity building of individuals and institutions as well, creating more awareness among stakeholders, specifically the small tea growers.

The 22nd session was attended by more than 20 tea producer and consuming countries. The Indian delegation was led by Santosh Kumar Sarangi, Chairman of Tea Board of India and included 16 representatives of the major stakeholders of the Indian tea industry, Phukan said.

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