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Rich tea trove in Assam wilderness

- Genetic resource pool targeted

Jorhat, March 13: The Tea Research Association (TRA) has sent a proposal to the Centre for identification of and research into germplasm of tea plants growing in the wild.

This is part of the association’s effort to protect and register tea varieties — new, extant and essentially derived, and to encourage planters and farmers in conserving the plant genetic resources.

Director of the Tocklai Experimental Station (TES) N. Muraleedharan, at an awareness meet of tea planters on protection of plant varieties and farmers’ rights at the TES auditorium here today, said the TES had earlier collected samples of such wild teas growing in Tinsukia district. He said this would have to be done in a more systematic way.

“A few days ago, a former scientist of this institute had visited Karbi Anglong district and found many tea bushes growing in the wild. The farmers who had plantations there had collected these high-quality wild tea seeds for their plantations instead of the known cloned varieties already in use,” Muraleedharan said.

The director said this showed that there was a large quantity of rich tea germplasm present in the wild and their good characteristics could be incorporated into other high-yielding varieties to develop new and better cultivars.

“The efforts of planters and farmers in developing tea cultivars should also be recognised and rights protected. This can be done by registering the new, extant and derived varieties with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV and FR) Authority,” he said.

Devajit Borthakur, in charge of plant physiology and breeding department, TES under TRA, said there were a few gardens where tea plants were found to be resistant to drought or flood conditions. These are very good planting material which can be isolated by TRA and incorporated with other desirable characteristics to produce clones which are adapted to total environment conditions.

“These clones can be registered with the PPV and FR Authority and this resultant plant breeding varieties can be the joint property of TRA and the member garden from which a high-quality unique germplasm has been isolated,” he said.

Borthakur stressed that in order that farmers’ cultivars be recognised and rewarded and new plant breeding material developed by TRA be propagated and protected then all the stakeholders should be aware of the new plant breeding programme as well as the need for registration.

At the meet, P.K. Barua, head of the department of plant breeding and genetics, Assam Agricultural University, delivered a comprehensive lecture on IPR, patents, copyright and sui generis.

Borthakur had informed earlier that tea clones and seeds released by TES here would be protected under the Plant Variety and Farmers’ Right Authority (PPV&FRA), whose National Tea Task Force, New Delhi, had recently finalised the guidelines for registering them.

The more than 100-year-old research institute has 31 clones, 14 seed stocks and 153 garden series clones.

“Each of these have been evaluated in 21 parameters like leaf size, seed quality and flower variety. These will all be registered with the Plant Variety and Farmers’ Right Authority that will protect our intellectual property from being stolen,” Borthakur said.