November 10, 2014: An Indian tea planter based in Coonoor has come up with a novel pilot project proposal, which, according to him, has the potential to bring down the usage of chemical fertilisers in tea cultivation by half and double the yield.
His name is N Lakshmanan and he is Director of Golden Hill Tea estate in Nilgiri. Currently, nitrogenous fertilisers are applied by hand on the surface, which is considerably wasteful and also increases the toxin content in the soil. Moreover, it loses its efficiency and part of the nutrients are lost due to rain and irrigation.
Lakshmanan has proposed, on the other hand, that the fertilizer should be injected directly at the roots that are around 6-8 inches underground, and that too at a suitable time when the plants are the most active. A tea bush has been found to release specific enzymes through its roots to collect nutrients from the soil for two hours in a day, a process that is referred to as nitrate reductase activity. To make the maximum impact, fertilisers need to be injected during this period. Lakshman has further proposed that the project be spearheaded by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras.
The estate plans to develop a software which requires the exact time for the nitrate reductase activity, which it will use to send radio signals to automatic drip irrigation machines for injection of manure. If this project is successful, it will go a long way in improving productivity and bringing down operational costs for tea planters.