In tea cultivation, plucking which is carried out at 7 to 14 days intervals almost thorough the whole year, is one of the most important practices and it accounts for 15-20 per cent of the cost of tea production. Further, plucking alone involves about 60-70 per cent of the total labour force making the tea cultivation a labour intensive one. This apart, the heavy rush of leaf during main cropping months sometimes throws plucking schedule out of gear. Plucking intervals becomes longer and the standard of plucking falls leading to deterioration of the quality of made tea.
Hand plucking is a common practice in some countries like India. However, mechanical plucking is becoming popular and has been used in a large scale in many other countries like Japan, Mauritius, Russia, Argentina, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Australia Papua and New Guinea etc.
Harvesting shears, hand-operated or driven by a small motor, are used by many countries like Indonesia, Turkey, Malawi etc. A number of plucking machines like self-propelled selective plucking machine have been developed in USSR. In Japan, plucking is mostly done with powered plucking machine or tractor mounted plucking machine. Cutting knife,portable plucking machines, Riding machines, Rail tracking system etc are different devices for plucking tea in Japan.For convenience of mechanical or machine plucking, the plucking surface of the tea bushes in Japan and Russia is made hemispherical.
The mechanical aid for plucking prevents or reduce the wastage of leaf, leaving plucking schedule undisturbed thereby ensuring better standard of plucking and hence quality of made tea. Mechanical plucking has been tried in many other countries also. A major difficulty in mechanizing plucking process is the steep and irregular slopes on which tea is very often grown.
Shear Plucking in Assam