Tea is grown in diverse range of soil types that are widely different in origin and geographical formation. Tea grows best on well-drained fertile soil on high lands having a good depth, acidic pH in the range 4.5 to 5.5 and organic matter status should be medium to high level. The soil intended to be used for tea cultivation should be deep and friable. The depth of the soil from the surface to the bed rock or compact zone should at least be 1.5 m or more. Shallow soil hinders the growth of roots. Tea plants grown in shallow soil suffer more from drought. Tea soils should not be very sandy or very clayey.Sandy loam to silty loam soil is suitable for tea cultivation.
The common physical characters that are important for tea soils about the management are given in the following table. These characters are seen to vary widely in different tea growing areas.
Common soil physical characters and their status in tea soils
|Soil physical character||Status in tea soil|
|Soil depth||Deep enough (2m) and pervious to root growth without a hard pan, gravel layer etc.|
|Drainage||Porous and well-drained soils(at least 1 m depth)|
|Texture||Sandy to heavy clay|
|Structure||Contribution of organic matter for structure and tilth|
|Bulk Density(Apparent density)||0.8 to 2.7 g cm-3|
|Pore Space||Pore Space Over 40%|
|Water holding Capacity||Varies with texture and organic matter content of the soil|
|Available water||4 to 20 cm m-1 soil depth|