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Push for irrigation in gardens to fight drought

Jorhat, July 3: Tapan Dutta, former chairman of the Evaluation Committee on Research and Development Activities of tea research institutes in the country, has suggested that irrigation should form a major component in tea estates of the state to offset drought conditions.

He has asked the small tea growers of the state to seek a subsidy of 75 per cent from the Tea Board of India to develop irrigation facilities in their gardens instead of seeking financial relief for loss because of drought condition .

In the financial year 2013-14 the Tea Board of India had released Rs 2 crore for the purpose.

“Other than corporate houses and private company gardens, even tea gardens with 50 hectares of land or more, irrespective of agro climatic regions planters should seriously consider the installation of fully portable irrigation systems which may cost Rs 18,000-20,000 per hectare. However, water resource can be developed at a lower cost with their own resources and with the help of Tea Board and its guidelines,” Dutta said.

He, however, cautioned that the installation of irrigation facilities would mean that the plucking season should not continue till mid-December.

“The tea planting community should appreciate that the irrigation management is not merely an application of water during drought-like situations, because prolonged drought causes physic-chemical imbalances. Extension of the plucking season up to mid December, even with irrigation, followed by a dry spell with low water table may lead to a non-reversible physiological situation for the tea plants,” he said.

Dutta suggested that the Tea Research Association should immediately consider the establishment of a department of water management with irrigation as an important component in addition to drainage and conservation at the TRA Nagarkata Regional Research Station, North Bengal so that research and development into this important aspect of tea can take place.

It was on the recommendation of the Evaluation Committee that the Nagarkata station was upgraded from sub-station to station and identified as the lead centre for such research and development activities.

Dutta further asked the Indian Tea association, Calcutta to consider his suggestions for irrigation facilities in each and every garden and to take up the initiative on a war footing.

Dutta rued that the TRA had some inherent weaknesses as this scientific organisation constituted by planters are yet to consider the necessity of undertaking research programmes on irrigation management.

“Although corporate tea companies and progressive planters adopted irrigation systems in their respective plantations it failed to mitigate the adverse effects during prolonged dry spells for want of research and follow up recommendations on foliar application of fertilizers, and micro -nutrients and other requirements of tea bushes,” Dutta said.

He exhorted the tea community to change their conservative mindset and take to irrigation which could be established at a low cost or with subsidy in the gardens.

Quoting the words of F L Engledow, professor of Agriculture, University of Cambridge, UK who had said in 1953-54 that liability to drought, their duration and affect on next season yield on leaf are matter of speculation, rather than knowledge, Dutta said that this was true even today..