Prospects of organic tea cultivation in Uttarakhand hills, India
GCS Negi, Vimla Bisht
Tea (Camellia sinensis L.) is one of the most popular drinks worldwide due to its pleasant taste and health promoting effect. In recent years, with the growing awareness about health related benefits of tea, organic tea is emerging as a special niche product globally. However, environmental pollution and residue left over by chemicals applied in tea cultivation are looked into seriously. Also, use of fertilizers cannot be promoted in the biodiversity rich and environmentally sensitive mountain ecosystem. Therefore, attempts are required for using organic fertilizers and locally made FYM that could be adopted by the peasants without compromising the yield of tea significantly. Uttarakhand (a mountainous state in north India) has a rich history of tea cultivation that dates back to about 150 years when the first consignment of 20,000 tea seedlings from Kolkata reached this region in 1835, at the same time when tea was also planted in the hills of H.P., Darjeeling, Assam and South India. However, with the departure of British the tea industry in Uttarakhand degenerated considerably due to several reasons. Uttarakhand Government reintroduced tea in Uttarakhand hills in 1987, by reviving abandoned tea gardens of the British period and focused on organic tea cultivation in over 1000 ha land. Considering the above we conducted research in the experimental plantations of UPASI-9 variety of tea (Camellia sinensis L.) under three fertilizer treatments viz., NPK, bio-fertilizer and farm yard manure (FYM) as per the recommended doses for nutrient poor soil in the mid-hills of Uttarakhand (Distt. Almora). A comparative account of plant growth and tea yield under various fertilizer treatments after three years shows that the FYM treated plots were significantly better in tea yield as compared to fertilizer treated plots (640 vs 444 kg/ha green leaves), which is about three-fold lower than recorded in Darjeeling hills, India. Thus the poor hill farmers can cultivate organic tea profitably using FYM prepared by them in cattle-sheds replacing the costly and environmentally hazardous inorganic fertilizers in Uttarakhand.