Seeds were the only source of planting in the beginning of tea cultivation. Early plantations in Assam were done by collecting seeds from the indigenous tea plants which were growing in the hills of the then Assam, mostly in the present Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram and in areas bordering Myanmar. Subsequently, the planters started to improve the planting materials by selecting superior plants in the nursery and the selected plants were planted out for establishing seed baries (orchards).Thus, a good number of improved seed varieties with higher yield and better quality and morphological uniformity were developed. Such varieties having distinct characteristics were popularly known as Jats. Betjan, Dhonjan, Khorijan, Tingamira are some of such seed jats which were the primary planting materials of tea in India for over a century. These jats were also introduced to many other counties to start tea plantations.In Indonesia, the plantation was started with Assam seeds in 1878. In other countries also tea areas were planted in the past with locally developed jats of tea or importing seeds from other countries. However, now a days these Jats are not recommended for commercial planting after the release of high yielding superior planting materials in all tea growing countries.
At present, two types of improved planting materials of tea are available for commercial planting. These are (a) the clones and (b) the clonal seeds.
This lesson will introduce you to the different kinds of planting materials of tea currently on use by the different tea growing countries.