Book Review by Dr Nalini C. Gnanapragasam Sivapalan

Dr Nalini C. GnanapragasamSivapalan (2020)


“Wisdom in the leaf” is an appropriate title for this informative book contributed by well known experienced and knowledgeable retired planters and selected tea scientists. The wealth of knowledge surrounding the tea leaves, gathered over the years in Sri Lanka and elsewhere is amazing. However, no amount of knowledge will suffice if there are no experienced and dedicated planters to implement the scientific findings.

When I initially glanced through this book, I was pleased to see the names of veteran planters with many of whom I have had close association at some time or other during the time I was at the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka. Who else other than such experienced men are suited to write a compendium of this sort? Interacting with men of such caliber and imbibing their practical knowledge had helped many of us scientists in designing our field experiments to suit different agro climatic zones.

This book unfolds the journey of a tea planter throughout his career from the time he joined as a creeper, his life style as a planter, his duties in the field, tea factory and office until the time of his retirement as well as various other aspects of managing tea plantations and its environment, the personnel employed and their life style and welfare etc. The latter chapters include few scientific papers on selected topics.

In one of the chapters, names of nematicide and weedicide has been used which should have been avoided, as such recommendations change with time and the cited ones are not available now or banned from use.

The chapters on personal development is very useful for any young man who is thinking of embarking on a tea planting career. This will prepare him for the type of duties he is expected to perform and the life style he has to adopt. This is complimented by the equally useful chapters on human resources which details out the welfare facility, worker health, training etc.

Adoption of Good Agricultural practices (GAP) is mandatary for a healthy growth of tea bushes. Very exhaustive and useful information has been given in the chapters by the authors concerned, covering all aspects of field planting commencing from land selection, nursery management, planting, pruning, shade management, harvesting, nutrient management, weed management etc. This collective information would serve as a useful thesis for young planters to use as a guide line.

The refreshing cup of tea we all enjoy depends on how the harvested tea is transformed to produce the different kind of brewed tea suited for varying palettes. The well written chapters on Manufacturing process amply explains in details how this is done, making the complex process look simple, making even a layman able to understand the nitty gritties of tea manufacture.

The other high-light of this book is the environment where the tea plantations are located. The description of the bungalows, landscapes etc. will tempt any outsiders to visit these areas. Although, as the author pointed out, some of these places have lost their charm, many are still being maintained or have or being renovated.

Growing alternate crops in marginal tea areas is a useful enterprise which, as the author suggested must be pursued. No doubt it has been a failure in the past and the author himself who was involved in this project has briefed the primary causes for such failures. From lessons learned in the past, attempts are now being successfully made to grow, pepper and other useful alternate fruit and spice crops in marginal tea areas. Such diversification of unused tea lands will also help improve the microclimate in the tea environment.

Plants being sessile, have specific mechanisms to survive environmental changes, and respond to complex stress conditions, minimizing damage. However, if such environmental factors, causing stress continues for a long time, and the plant is not protected, it can lead to severe damage. These environmental changes may be due to unavoidable changes in climate or man-made. Various ways of adapting to or mitigating these problems have been addressed to by some of the planters and also by the scientists in the last few chapters. Amongst these, the use of biochar is an eye opener, as it is a very useful substance known to improve soil fertility. C-sequestration and also mitigate climate change.

Last but not least is the important chapter on the health benefit of tea. Reading this brief, but very informative article will enlighten the reader the many health benefits of consuming tea in age related ailments such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, impact on oral health, obesity, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. etc.

All in all, this Book is very useful and informative to not only those. working in tea industry but to those who are planning to embark on a planting career , as well as to any layman who are interested to know about all aspects of tea planting and its management.

The various chapters are well thought of, and “everything and anything” you want to know about the tea plantations could be found here capturing the interest of the different types of readers.

Dr Nalini C. GnanapragasamSivapalan


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