The Telegraph
Thursday , May 1 , 2014
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TRA seeks tips on climate change

- Tea research hub ties up with foreign varsities to cope with vagaries of nature
The vehicle fitted with sensor-supported mobile tea information system. Telegraph picture

Jorhat, April 30: The Tea Research Association (TRA) has tied up with two foreign universities to seek a few answers for the industry within the next couple of years to cope with climate change in one of the highest tea yielding regions of the world.

An unprecedented dry spell, lasting almost six months, has hit tea gardens in the state, especially the tea-rich Upper Assam this season and the industry is set to lose 60 million kg of tea by the end of the current year. A similar situation has been prevailing in Assam gardens since the last few years.

Assam produces more than 50 per cent of the country’s over 600 million kg of tea annually and the five districts of Upper Assam — Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat — produces over 400 million kg of tea annually, which is 70 per cent of the state’s production.

TRA deputy director R.M. Bhagat told The Telegraph today that the Tocklai Tea Research Institute, which is under the TRA, is working on a project: Impact Vulnerability and Adaptation of Tea to Climate Change. “We are expecting to come up with some answers for the tea industry to cope with the prevailing changes in the climate.”

TRA, he said, has tied up with Southampton University in the UK and the University of Limpopo in South Africa regarding climate change and soil and is working jointly to cope with the changing environment.

Bhagat said research on climate change was in an advanced stage and efforts have been made to develop adaptation strategies to combat these changes.

Studies conducted at Tocklai on climatic change have revealed that average annual rainfall was receding alarmingly in the region. It appears that in the last 92 years, more than 200mm of annual average rainfall has been lost. This decrease in rainfall is also observed in the active production season (April to October) of tea.

A study conducted by Tocklai said the minimum temperature on an average had also risen at many places by 0.06 degree to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the last nine decades. At the same time, a decrease in maximum temperature in the active production phase has been observed.

Bhagat said tea bushes were resistant to changes in climate but going by current indications on climate change, high carbon dioxide level and resultant high temperature could have an impact on its economic viability.

Tea clones, he said, were being grown in a chamber with simulated high temperature-high carbon dioxide environment to ascertain which clone would survive and thrive under such conditions. “These would be the future teas that will thrive in the changing environment.”

Tocklai, on the other hand, has also undertaken 10 other projects on various aspects of tea with the Tea Board approving these projects for the Twelfth Plan. These studies would be on mechanisation, quality, soil, plant breeding and setting up of a quality laboratory.

Working jointly with the Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC), TRA has also acquired a sensor supported mobile tea information system recently to help in collecting data from various tea gardens.