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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Promoting sustainable tea production in India

India is the second largest producer and exporter of tea in the world and it can be a powerful engine for development. However, tea crops here suffer from a range of pests and diseases. Pesticides are the main management solution but this results in increased production costs and potential risks to human health. So, we are undertaking a major scientific research study to evaluate the environmental and economic feasibility of applying alternative methods to manage the pests and diseases here.

Project Overview

So, what's the problem

The production and trade of tea has the potential to be a powerful engine for economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security in India but often, harnessing this power can be difficult. To manage tea pests here, extensive use of chemicals are being used. Under our guidance however, these are being gradually replaced by more ecological pest management. 

What is this project doing?

CABI, working with Unilever, is undertaking a major study to evaluate the environmental and economic feasibility of applying alternative methods to manage tea pests and diseases in India. The scientific team are doing this by fostering better understanding of these more ecological approaches to management, evaluating current practices and examining how these alternative approaches can be integrated into tea production to raise overall sustainability of tea production.

CABI scientists have reviewed existing crop protection practices and limitations to current techniques, in cooperation with the Tea Research Association, through its technical wing of Tocklai Tea Research Institute and key industry partners. Based on this study, a roadmap to sustainable tea plantation was prepared. Three tea gardens in different zones of Assam have been selected as the field partners.

This  to prepare a toolkit of best non chemical pest management strategies in a sustainable and alternative way, protecting tea growers, workers and the surrounding ecosystem. Planters are also being encouraged to reduce chemical use and practice more ecosystem based approaches or management of tea pests.

Results

So far, we have carried out a literature review for validated non chemical approaches for pest management in tea. Tea garden visits were made to understand the existing practices and skills for pest monitoring and management which helped in development of a road map that aims to shift from intensive use of pesticides to a more ecological approach to tea production. The basic concept of this intervention was presented at the National Tea Research Seminar held at Tocklai Tea Research Institute in Assam in February 2015 and Sustainable tea production workshop in 2016.This helped many planters and researchers to give a consideration to adopting an ecosystems based approach for pest management. 

To date, the results of the project are very encouraging in reducing chemical inputs for tea pest management. This work is also increasing natural enemy populations in some of Assam’s plantations. Ecosystem and bush health are also improving. 

Reduced yields were initially observed in the ecological plots but these have recovered and are now similar to other chemically operated plots. The IPM based technologies we are encouraging include the use of composts, biological control and effective monitoring of pest populations via sticky and light traps. Early detection is helping to prevent outbreaks and the plantations are only using chemical pest management as a last resort. 

The team

Project team

Staff image of Julie Flood

Julie Flood

Global Director - Trade and Commodities

Staff image of Akanksha  Nagpal

Akanksha Nagpal

Science Associate

Staff image of Suz Neave

Suz Neave