Tea World

Lesson 32

Tipping and Plucking

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Plucking in tea is synonymous with harvesting in other crops. The tender apical portions of the shoots consisting of two to three tender leaves and the terminal buds are nipped off in plucking. Before starting the normal plucking in the season, the tea bushes are tipped at a pre-determined height retaining a few maintenance leaves and a flat plucking table is formed for convenience of plucking.
Plucking accounts for the maximum cost in tea cultivation. The quality of the made tea largely depends on the green leaves plucked. Plucking is carried out by pluckers in the tea gardens and a strict supervision is necessary to maintain the quality of green leaves.
Let us look at afew terminologies.

Terminology

Meaning

1. Primaries The shoots or branches developed from the light pruned bush are called primaries.
2. Tipping When the primaries grow above a pre-determined height,these are decapitated or tipped at that height parallel to the ground surface. Initial few rounds of plucking are termed as tipping.
3.Tipping height The height at which the tea buses are tipped above the pruning/skiffing mark is the tipping height. Its main objective is to retain the maintenance leaves on the bush. The tipping heights for different types of prune and skiff are as follows:
Types of prune/skiff Tipping height
(over prune/skiff level)
Medium/Heavy prune 30 cm or 5-6 full leaves
Light prune
(i)Vigorous tea
(ii)Tea with average vigour
25 cm or5 full leaves
20 cm or 5 fullleaves
Deep skiff 7-10 cm or  2 -3 full leaves
Medium skiff 4-5 cm or one full leaf
4. Plucking system It varies according to the agro-climatic situations which influence the rate of shoot growth. In N.E. India, usually “Janam” plucking is practiced. In this system, plucking is done above the upper most janam.
5.Standard of plucking It denotes the types of shoots harvested. Generally two standards of plucking are followed viz., Standard and Black:
Plucking standard Types of shoots plucked Types of shoots left on the plucking table
Standard Large 1+B,all 2+b,Small 3+b, single banjhi Buds and small 1+b
Black All Unopened buds
6. Plucking Round It is the time interval in days between successive plucking operations in the same area. In N.E. India, plucking round varies from 4-14 days though 6-8 day plucking round is the most common.
7. Step-up plucking It denotes plucking above a normal leaf to restore the volume of maintenance foliage when required.
8. Creep Undue rise in the plucking table is creep. Creep results in crop loss. Creep should not be allowed to exceed than the permissible limits under normal conditions.
9. Breaking back This is an operation in which leaves and stubs which stick above the plucking table, are broken back to level-off the plucking surface. This is to be done when plucking round cannot be maintained due to certain reasons and pluckable shoots are longer than desired length.

Guidelines for carrying out Tipping and Plucking operations

Operation/Step

Key points

1.Take the Tipping Measure i) Fix the tipping height according to the type of pruning/skiffing.
2.Tipping Pruned and Skiffed teas i) Start tipping whenever the shoots attain the tipping height.
ii) Tip the primaries when these produce 2+b shoot above the pre-determined height.
iii) Maintain uniform height of tipping
iv) Provide measuring sticks to the pluckers to maintain the height.
v) Do not tip the immature shoots or shoots below the tipping level.
vi) Do not delay tipping by waiting for maximum shoots to attain tipping level.
vii) Strictly maintain a flat table.
3.Plucking of Unpruned Tea during Early Season i) Pluck close to janam
ii) Leave buds and small 1+b shoots
iii) Raise the table by one leaf if maintenance foliage is inadequate.
iv) Remove all banjhison the table.
v) Follow black plucking during initial rounds
4.Plucking of Rain flush Crop i) Follow Standard plucking.
ii) If necessary, follow shorter plucking round.
iii) Don’t allow creep.
iv) Do airy skiffing in UP sections, if unavoidable to level off the table.
v) Don’t go for step-up plucking
5.Plucking towards the End of the Season i) Follow Black plucking
ii) Remove the banjhies as much as possible.
iii) Follow longer plucking round depending upon the growth.
iv) Remove the creep or maintain the table in sections particularly which are to be kept untrue (UP) for the next season.
6.Plucking in Droughty Condition i) Follow liberal plucking
ii) Add a layer of  maintenance leaves in unprune (UP) sections
iii) In case of severe defoliation or die-back of plucking points,step-up the table  by one leaf
iv)  Do not lower the tipping height even if the primaries go banjhi before reaching the tipping height.
7/Plucking in Hail Damaged Areas i) Pluck the affected young tea retaining one or two additional layers of maintenance foliage.
ii) In UP sections, pockets created by hail should be allowed to be filled up to the original level.
iii) Ste- up the table by one leaf in severely affected sections.
iv) If recovery is quick, step up is not necessary in LP/DS/MS sections.
8.Plucking of Waterlogged bushes i) Follow Black plucking at shorter rounds to avoid excessive banjhi formation
9.Plucking during Blister Blight  and other pest attack i) Tip low in blister blight affected MP and LP sections.
 ii) Raise the plucking table to the pre-determined height on expiry of the vulnerable period
iii) Follow Black plucking in blister blight affected UP sections. Remove all tender shoots
iv)  Follow Black plucking in sections heavily infested with pests like Thrips and tea Mosquito bug.
10.Green Leaves Handling i) Do not allow the pluckers to keep the leaves in hand for long time.
ii) Do not allow to over-load leaves in tukri/topa or bags
iii) Keep the leaves in tukri or bags loosely in shade.
iv) An ideal plucking basket of 55 cm x55 cm x55 cm can accommodate 15 kg of green leaves without damage.
v) Do not allow the pluckers to keep topas/tukris/bags or their belongings over the plucking table.
vi) Do not store leaves in the garden for a longer period of time.
vii) Transport the leaves to the factory in open and well ventilated leaf trolleys.

Take care of the following:

  • All the banjhies on the plucking table should be removed while plucking.
  • The shoots below the tipping level or plucking table should not be plucked.
  • The table should be leveled by removing the projected hard leaves while plucking.
  • The mature leaves projecting above the table should not be torn half way.

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