Sri Lanka’s tea plantations will in January be the subject of the next experiment with plans drawn up to try out biochar use on the plantations in the government’s organic policy drive, among other proposals being worked.
Tea plants require a combination of the different nutrients to be given at once and as per the recommendations of the Tea Research Institute (TRI).
Sri Lanka Tea Board consultant Dr. Wimal Wimaladasa said that they were studying the possibility of the use of biochar on the tea estates as a result of which they can reduce the use of chemical fertilisers in the production process.
He pointed out that with biochar as a soil enhancer it will improve the soil biology, chemical and soil physics. Because Sri Lankan tea soils are very poor in terms of bio fertility biochar is one of the supreme products that can enhance and enrich the overall soil health leading to soil productivity.
He noted that this can be produced locally and pointed out that they were going to encourage smallholder and industry stakeholders to produce it locally.
Anticipating a higher quality, he noted that they are planning on introducing this from next year January and also through the budget, and the required recommendations will be provided by the TRI.
In this respect, the 144 tea inspector divisions covering some smallholders in 14 tea growing districts and 21 RPCs will be engaged in collecting all soil samples and testing for fertility and recommendations provided on site specific basis as part of a wider national programme, Dr. Wimaladasa said.
However, responding to these new practices, Hayleys Plantations Managing Director Dr. Roshan Rajadurai told the Business Times that biochar is a soil amendment and not a replacement for fertiliser and there is a cost element involved in the use of this type of farming.
He pointed out that the use of the required machinery was a cost factor and also explained that as a commercial venture they have to see its applicability in the Sri Lankan context.
But the availability of it and the scalability, applicability and the plant nutrition have to be taken into account, he explained particularly when carried out as a commercial venture.
Upto September, Dr. Rajadurai said tea prices have gone down compared to last year at the auctions and as a result it has come to Rs.37 less than last year. In 2020 the industry recorded a crop shortfall due to the inclement weather.
And now with a fertiliaer ban in place and no weed control the producers are the ones that will have to face the flak at the end of the day, it was pointed out.
Due to the non- availability of Glyphosate, the herbicide, there are a number of unauthorized products now entering the market from other countries like India as a result of which the situation is getting compounded, Dr. Rajadurai explained.