Tea World

Lesson 32

Pruning and Skiffing

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Pruning and skiffing of tea are the most important operations in tea production. Nowadays, tea bushes are pruned at an interval of three to four years and in between the bushes are skiffed or even kept untouched. This type of pruning is called light prune. Skiffings are also of different types. In addition to the normal pruning and skiffing, tea bushes have to prune drastically for reduction of their height for convenience in plucking.
Before going to prune or skiff your tea, you should know the different types of prune and skiff.



Light Prune(LP) It is a cut given 4-5 cm above the last prune level (i.e. leaving 4-5 cm new wood) in order to remove the congested top hamper and to renew the shoot system for more vigorous growth.
Medium Prune(MP) When the height of the bush frame reaches a height (beyond 80 cm) and plucking becomes difficult, bushes are pruned at 50-65 cm height above the ground. Removal of knots, unproductive wood, congestion of the bush frame and its sanitation are some other objectives of medium prune.
Rejuvenation Prune /Heavy Prune(RP/HP) Its sole objective is to improve the yielding capacity of some old but reasonably good sections of tea to minimize loss of crop during uprooting and replanting. It is done 40-45 cm above the ground level in the plains of N.E. India and 15-37 cm above the ground level in China hybrids of hilly region.
Height Reduction Prune(HRP) It is done at 70-75 cm height from the ground in plains only. It aims at reducing the height of the bush frame with minimum loss of crop.
Collar Prune (CP) Entire above ground portion is cut leaving only up to a maximum of 10 cm when the bush becomes unproductive and root system is still healthy.
Deep Skiff (DS) It is a cut given midway between the pruning and tipping level, normally at 10 cm above the previous pruning level.
Medium Skiff(MS) When done on light pruned tea tipped at 20 cm or deep skiffed tea tipped at 10 cm, this will be a cut at a height of 15 cm from the pruning mark or 5 cm below the last tipping level. However, when MS is done one or more years after unprune, light skiff of level-off-skiff years, this is a cut just below the   “Crows’ feet” formed during previous years plucking.
Light Skiff(LS) This is a cut given at current year’s tipping level or 1 cm below to re-establish a table.
Level-off-Skiff (LOS) This is a cut given at least 5 cm above the previous tipping level to remove the plucking points and old leaves that stick above the table at the end of the season.

Pruning Programme
You should have a pruning programme for your garden. First you should determine what pruning cycle will you follow- a two year pruning cycle or a three year pruning cycle. It depends upon a number of factors.
Guidelines for carrying out pruning and skiffing
(A) Light prune


Key points

1.Time of Pruning
In non-droughty areas, carry out the operation during mid-November to third week of December.
In drought prone areas,carry out the operation during mid-December to mid-January.
2.Assessment of suitability
Assess the thickness of the wood at the pruning height. It should be of around 1 cm diameter.
If not suitably thick, postpone the prune by a year or more and skiff the section.
3.The pruning operation
Use sharp pruning knife of 450 g weight and 15 cm long blade.
First find out the last prune mark in the centre of the bush.
Cut out a branch from the centre of the bush at 4-5 cm above the last prune mark.
Work out the knife from the centre towards the periphery of the bush in clock-wise direction.
The cut end should be clean, sharp, slanting and face inward.
Do not allow splitting of the branches.
4. Knife Cleaning out(KCO)
Use a knife having 7.5-10 cm long blade.
Remove the dead, diseased and criss-cross branches and banjhi shoots or twigs.
Carry out KCO as soon as possible after pruning.
It should never be delayed beyond natural bud break
Avoid excessive cleaning out.
Smear Indopaste or bitumen paste to the large cuts.

(B) Medium and Rejuvenation prune


Key points

1.Time of Pruning i) In droughty areas, carry out MP/RP during January
ii) In other areas, it should be done during end-November to mid-January.
2.Pre pruning Operations i) Raise temporary shade at least one year ahead of pruning.
ii) Rest the bushes for a periodof 6-8 weeks before pruning.
iii) Check the starch reserves of the roots .If required give rest for few more days.
iv) Apply additional dose of potash and phosphate in the year of prune preferably during end August to early September.
3.The Pruning Operation i) Use 20 cm knife and, if necessary, use pruning saw.
ii) Give a sharp cut to the branches at the recommended height
iii) The cuts should face inward.
iv) Remove the knots at the pruning height.
4.Post Pruning Operations i) Remove the knots, even below the pruning level.
ii) Remove the banjhi shoots, dead and diseased shoots.
iii) Do the above operations immediately after pruning.
iv) Apply caustic wash to the bush frame and cover with pruning litters immediately after prune.
v) OR, Spray one round of approved Copper Oxychloride formulation at 1:400 dilution on the cut surface within 48 hours.
vi) Prepare the caustic wash solution by mixing 4-6 kg of Quick lime and 12 kg Washing soda in 200 litres of water.
vii) Seal the large cut surfaces  with therecommended bituminous paint of Trichodermabiocide (20%) immediately cleaning the bushes.
viii) Remove the lungs/breathers at the onset of bud break and apply Indopaste on the cut surfaces.
ix) Complete the cultural operations like cleaning and deepening of drains, uprooting of dead shade trees and tea stumps.
x) Fill up the depressions and level the ground before bud break.
xi) Carry out infilling and inter planting,if required, in this year of medium or rejuvenation pruning.
xii) Apply pre-emergent herbicide.
xiii) Protect the newly emerging shoots from sucking insects like Aphids, Jassids and Thrips by spraying recommended chemicals.

(C) Skiffing


Key points

1.Time of Skiffing i) Carry out DS during mid-December  and  early January.
ii) Carry out MS during early January and mid-January.
iii) Carry out LS/LOS in third week of January.
iv) Note that deeper the skiff(cut) earlier is the skiffing time.
v) Follow the sequence of operations as DS first followed by MS,LS and LOS.
2.The Skiffing Operation i) Use sharp skiffing knife.
ii) Measure the heights from the last pruning mark.
iii) For the mixed seed population,take an average measures for skiffing after taking random measurements
iv) Work out the knife from the middle of the bush towards periphery in clock-wise direction.
3.Cleaning Out i) In DS sections, remove the banjhi shoots from the bushes by hand (Hand clean out).
ii) Do not defoliate the bushes completely.

Note the following

  • Don’t prune the bushes if the thickness of the branches at the pruning height is not sufficiently thick (one cm dia). The recovery from the pruning will be poor and there may be die back of branches.
  • Always use knives of proper size to avoid splitting of the pruned branches.Sharpen the knives frequently while pruning is in progress.
  •  Don’t delay the cleaning out operation. It will damage the new shoots if done after the bud break.
  • In heavy pruning, protect the cuts from the growth of pathogens. The cut ends are entry points of the fungi.
  • Proper resting and adequate application of fertilizers are important before going for medium pruning/Rejuvenation pruning.
  • Prune the breathers just before the bud break.

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