The objectives of skiffing are to have an early high quality crop and total crop as well. Skiffing helps in removing the knotted and congested stems, thickening the branches and improving the general health of the bushes. It is also resorted to the bushes when there is a necessity of postponing the pruning operation.
Different forms of skiffing are practised which are described below:
Deep Skiff (DS)
When deep skiff is done after a light prune, it is a cut given midway between the pruning and tipping levels. For instance, for the tea tipped at 20 cm, deep skiffed is given at 10 cm above the previous pruning level.
D.S. after one or more years of level skiff or unpruned, it is a cut made mid-way between the pruning level and the height of plucking table at the end of the season, provided not more than 23 cm of growth is removed by the skiff. For instance, if plucking height at the end of the year is 30 cm above the pruning mark, the tea is to be deep skiffed at 15 cm.Thus, deep skiffing of tea bushes is done normally between 12–15 cm above the last light prune marks. Deep skiffed tea gives more total and early crop than light prune tea without adversely affecting the quality. It is also less susceptible than unpruned tea to the effects of drought and pests infestation, such as red spider.
Skiffing of Tea
Medium Skiff (MS)
The main objective of medium skiffing is to remove the congestion of the dead and unproductive twigs at the top, which is the removal of the so-called “crow’s feet”. It is a structure or knot formed in the plucking table where a number of new flushes or shoots have developed from the same height due to repeated plucking.
Medium skiff is a cut often given at a height of 15 cm above the last pruning mark or 5 cm below the previous year’s tipping level. Normally, this is given just below the “crow’s feet” formed by previous year’s plucking. It helps to remove congestion in the top hamper.
Light skiff (LS)
This is a skiff at or up to 1 cm above the previous tipping level i.e. just deep enough to remove the majority of the plucking points and to leave the ‘crow’s feet’. Light skiff is given to re-establish a level.
Level-off- Skiff (LVS)
This is a skiff to remove the plucking points and the old leaves that stick above the plucking table at the end of the season. This cut is given at least 5 cm above the previous tipping level. It helps to tidy up the top of the bush.
Tea bushes plucked continuously without any skiff (untouched) is designated as unprune.
Choice of a skiff depends on a number of factors such as crop distribution, cost of plucking, availability of labour and quality of tea produced. Drought, pest and disease susceptibility are the other important factors which also influence the choice. Deep skiff does not cause crop loss or reduce crop quality, but other forms of skiff adversely affect quality of made tea.