26 February 2016 – As part of a Unilever-funded project, CABI¬†in South Asia and the Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI) in India organized a workshop on sustainable tea production. Entitled ¬ĎA non-chemical approach to pest management¬í, the workshop was held on 18 February at the Tocklai Tea Research Institute, Jorhat, and looked at ecological farming practices and non-conventional methods for tea growing. It was a great success: more than 250 planters across the state of Assam and experts from academia and industry attended.

India is the second largest tea producer in the world. The tea plantations suffer from various pests and diseases, which are often tackled with chemical pesticides. This has resulted in increased production costs for tea and potential risks to environmental and human health. However, the demand for contaminant-free, high quality tea has led to a movement towards non-chemical pest management and sustainable tea cultivation. To restore the productivity and sustainability of soil as well as plants, efforts have been made to implement alternative, eco-friendly and cost effective pest and disease management strategies.

CABI and TTRI are conducting a scientific study to evaluate the environmental and economic feasibility of applying biological or non-pesticide methods for plant protection. The project will build a roadmap and develop best possible strategies for sustainable tea production.

The workshop was divided into two technical sessions. Session I on ¬Ďnon-chemical pest management strategies and challenges¬í was chaired by the Director of the TRA. It focused on the theoretical and practical aspects of sustainable pest management, and the strategies and practices currently being followed in the field. Dr Kavya Dashora, CABI, and Dr Somnath Roy, TTRI, presented the activities of pilot field studies being carried out with key project partner planters in three tea estates in Assam.

Session II on ¬Ďstrategic approaches in translation of research to practice¬í was chaired by Dr. Ravi Khetarpal, Regional Advisor, CABI. He gave a presentation on integrated crop management for tea and the challenges of integrated pest management. Attendees discussed the practicality and economics of some of the non-chemical pest strategies. Capacity building ¬Ė helping people to develop experience and skills ¬Ė was raised as an important way of translating research into practice.

The response from the audience was encouraging. The opinions of the policy and research experts, as well as the rich field based practical experience of the planters, was very helpful in giving direction to the present study. This study aims to develop a tool box for best practices of pest management in tea ecosystem. The project will continue throughout 2016.

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