Climate tool for Assam gardens

Assam tea industry, for the first time, is equipped with TeaCAT, a climate advisory tool, which will help it take decisions if similar weather conditions exist in the future.

By ROOPAK GOSWAMI in Guwahati
  • Published 16.06.16
  •  
Tocklai

Guwahati, June 15: Assam tea industry, for the first time, is equipped with TeaCAT, a climate advisory tool, which will help it take decisions if similar weather conditions exist in the future.

Developed as part of a project on Climate-smartening Assam's tea plantation landscapes: defining socio-ecological safe spaces for future sustainability by Tea Research Association, India and University of Southampton, the UK, TeaCAT has provided climate data and yield data for the last 10 years.

"The tool has been made to inform the planter community how climate has been associated with monthly tea crop yield over 2004-2013 for Assam. It is designed to assist the planters in decision-making processes if similar conditions exist in future and provide information on which short or long-term measures could be taken to have optimum output based on advice given by the Tea Research Association on a regular basis," principal investigator for the project, India, and a scientist at Tocklai Tea Research Institute, Niladri Gupta, told The Telegraph.

Assam is one of most important tea-producing regions in the world manufacturing high-end graded tea, which contributes around 17 per cent of the global tea production and more than 50 per cent of India's tea output annually.

The tool aims to deliver a rich user experience while targeting a very wide range of web-browsers, both mobile and on the desktop. Users specify a location by clicking on a map, selecting a tea garden from a dropdown or by typing in its latitude and longitude. It looks at the short-term analysis of climate parameters in relation to yield.

"We have looked into 10 years of monthly climate data in relation to crop yield. Though climate data was available for longer period but yield data were not available for more than 10 years. So we had to restrict ourselves to short-term analysis in terms of climate-yield associations. Other researchers have already looked into long-term climate trends for this region," he said.

The advisories provided in TeaCAT are based on a subset of regional data and not on every tea garden for the region. Crop yield data was taken from 80 gardens and the weather data was taken from the India meteorological department (IMD).

"The data we have used is well distributed over all tea growing regions of Assam and provides a reasonable representation on how climate factors are associated with yield across the region," he said.

Quality checking of the IMD data was undertaken, but data collection measures were beyond the control of the researchers on this project. Consequently, the quality of the research output is only as good as the quality of the data input. He said the association or interested researchers could develop TeaCAT as a decision support system but that would require more data on soil characteristics, planting material, age of the bush and, more importantly, would require funding and a more intense modelling approach.