Tea World

Lesson 32

Land Preparation

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Land preparation for planting tea is an important operation. Any faulty land preparation techniques may destroy the good structured soils or result in failure of the establishment of tea. For planting in virgin land, the area needs to be cleared completely by removing all vegetation and then it is prepared for planting tea.  If the area was under tea or some other crops, land preparation needs extra care before replanting tea in such uprooted areas.

Here is the guideline to prepare your land for tea planting.

Guideline for land preparation

(A)  Clearing the Virgin Land


Key points

1.Soil Testing

i) Test the soil of the proposed area at least one year ahead of planting.
ii) Assess the suitability of the land depending upon the chemical characteristics of soil and other factors like soil depth, slope, rockiness etc.

2. Survey and Planning

i) Survey the area by a competent surveyor and prepare a contour map if the area is undulating or sloppy.
 ii) Identify the catchments on the map using a tracing paper.
iii) Mark the main and subsidiary water channels and ridges on the map.
iv) Mark the main features on the site
v) If the gradient is more than 2%, dig the field drains; construct the roads etc. according to the topography.

3.Land Clearing

i) Kill the big trees by “Ring Barking” method i.e. by removing a layer of the bark of approximately 30 cm width at 1-2 meter above the ground and brushed the exposed wood with a mixture of 2,4-D and burnt engine oil.
ii) Carry out Ring Barking one year ahead of planting.
iii) Uproot the entire stump along with the root system of the dead trees after felling.
 iv) Fill up the pits formed due to uprooting of stumps with the excavated soil.
v) Remove the termite mounds, if any, taking care to remove the honey comb structure completely. 
Apply Chloropyrophos; fill up the pit with top soil. Improve the soil pH by adding Aluminium sulphate.Plant Guatemala grass.
vi) Cut the weeds and jungles and retain the litter in situ.
vii) Do not encourage burning of the jungles.
viii) Clear only that area which is proposed for planting during the year.
ix) In undulating area, clear the area catchment-wise.
x) Start clearing from the top of the catchment, if the entire catchment cannot be cleared or not required.
xi) Layout the drains and path in the area based on the contour map and clear the lower portion of the catchment.

4.Land Preparation

i) Level the area with minimum soil disturbances.
ii) Plough, if necessary and level the area.
 iii) Don’t plough in sloppy terrain.
iv) Don’t level the area by cutting the elevated portion to fill the depression.
v) Complete the land preparation before the onset of monsoon.

5.Digging of Field Drains

i) Dig the field drains at the recommended spacing making only one foot deep.
ii) Mark the graded contour drain lines in the sloppy areas.

(B) Uprooted Land


Key Points

1.Selection of  the Old Tea Sections for Uprooting
Select sections of your garden yielding less than 65% of the estate average.
Select those sections where the vacancy is over 25%
Select sections below breakeven yield (BEY).
2.Target of Uprooting i)
2.5% of the old area every year.
3. Process of Uprooting
Deep skiff the area /section before uprooting.
Kill the shade trees one year ahead of uprooting by Ring Barking method.
Uproot the tea bushes and the shade trees along with the entire root system.
Fork the soil upto a depth of at least 45 cm for removing the smaller roots of pencil thickness which can also serve as source of disease infection.
Fill up the subsidiary drains after uprooting
4.Methods of uprooting
Manual method
Dig out the bushes with the hoe. It is the most common method but not the best. One worker can uproot 30-40 bushes per day.
Remove the roots with a diameter larger than pencil thickness.
By elephant
Uproot the bushes by elephant using a chain.One elephant can uproot 100 bushes per day (4 hours).
Remove the smaller roots using hand and hoe.
By tractor & tackle
Use a 50 HP tractor equipped with 10 tones winch and anchor along with specially made high tensile uprooting tackle. It is the most efficient and economical method.
Smaller roots are also extracted while uprooting by tractor.
A gang of 12 men including the tractor driver can uproot in a light textured soil a minimum of 1500 medium sized bushes per day.
With larger bushes in heavy soil,a gang of 19 men including the driver can uproot a minimum 700 bushes per day.
5.Land Preparation
Fill up the unwanted drains and holes created by uprooted tree stumps.
Level the area by hand hoeing and by using a leveler.
Apply lime or dolomite to correct the soil pH.Two tones of dolomite per ha increases pH by 0.5 unit.
Survey the land and prepare the contour map.
Carry out ploughing, harrowing, sub-soiling, if needed (both ways at right angle to each other) and re-leveling.
Sub soiling up to a depth of 75 cm in heavy and compact soil using an 80-90 HP tractor with a 10- cm wide shoe.
Mark the drain lines and roads according to the survey map.
Dig the drains, spread out the excavated soil.
Grow Guatemala grass for a period of 12 -18 months for soil rehabilitation.
6.Land Preparation for Land  under Other Crops
Plough the area, level and put under soil rehabilitation crops for a year or so.
The area which was under sugarcane or other crops continuously for many years need rehabilitation before planting tea.

What else? Yes, you must take care of the following points:

  • Don’t fell the big trees by cutting. The trees should be killed first, and then removed. If the roots are left in the soil, it may harbor soil borne pathogens.
  • Don’t expose the virgin land to the sun and rain for a long period. It will destroy the organic matter of the soil. Similarly, burning of the jungle should be avoided for clearing the area.
  •  Plant the cleared area with tea as soon as possible. If you can’t plant   due to some unavoidable reasons, grow some cover crops to protect the soil from the sun and rain.
  • Clear the area from the top of the catchment to check soil erosion and loss of top soil.
  •  You know that uprooted lands are normally poor in fertility and soil physical properties.  Improve the soil.  Go for soil rehabilitation by growing grasses like Guatemala before replanting.
  • Remove the termite mound completely from the area and the soil should be improved by adding organic matter or should be put under rehabilitation crops. Tea plants cannot establish in such pockets, if planted without treatment.
  • While uprooting, take care that fresh roots are not be left out in the soil. It may harbor primary root rot causing pathogens.

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