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Experts to attend tea meet

Jorhat, March 9: Tea experts from across the country will congregate at Siliguri tomorrow to attend the centenary celebrations of Tocklai experimental station under the Tea Research Association.

In the two-day conference, the experts would discuss strategies for stress management in tea bushes and other challenges faced by the industry. Mridul Hazarika, director of Tocklai experimental station said the industry would be adversely affected if a holistic approach was not taken to relieve stress in tea bushes.

“Tea as a perennial crop, which grows in a natural habitat, is now subject to maximum stress. Mechanical cutting and stunting its growth to a particular height is a physical stress. Climatic variations are a stress. Plucking its leaves and buds is another physical stress. And there is also nutritional stress besides diseases. We will have to develop a holistic approach to address all these issues together and look out for economic sustainability along with ecological sustainability,” Hazarika said.

Scientists are of the view that mass vegetative propagation has resulted in tea losing its genetic diversity. Genetic improvement of tea is urgently necessary to combat biotic and abiotic stress — in the form of drought, pest, diseases, heat, waterlogging and radiation.

Hazarika pointed out that for 50 years or more, a tea bush produces leaves, but its quality declines. Several research work on the genetic aspects of tea have been conducted and there is also a need to consider other factors like affect of climatic change on the industry.

“Securing the environment along with mitigating stress is the need of the hour if the industry has to survive,” he said.

“Tea grows best in maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius but now the temperatures are touching 37 to 38 degrees. What will happen if it touches 50 degrees in the future? We should be prepared for this, otherwise the day may not be far when the industry will face closure,” he said.

Global Efforts to Secure Tea Drink for Health and Safety, a paper by T.C. Chaudhuri and The Caterpillars: An emerging Threat to the Tea Industry and their Management, by S.K. Pathak, are among the topics which would be taken up for discussion.

There will also be a panel discussion on Augmenting Productivity and Enhancing Quality in small tea sector.

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