Plucking round is the time interval in days between the successive plucking operations. It varies form 4-14 days, though 7 days round is the most common practice. Plucking should be adjusted to the time interval between unfolding of successive leaves on a growing shoot i.e. leaf period. If the leaf period is 4 days, then a shoot with one leaf and the growing bud (1+ bud shoot) of today will become a shoot with two leaves (2 + bud) within next four days and a shoot with three leaves (3 + bud) within eight days.
During the main growing season in N.E. India, the mean leaf period is four days in the population of seed grown tea. Based on this, a plucking round of 7 days has been adopted in N.E.India as the normal plucking round. In most of the tea estates tea bushes are plucked at weekly intervals from April to December and there is a marked dormant season during winter when practically no crop is harvested. Normally towards the end of the season when the growth rate declines the plucking round is extended.
Longer rounds of plucking increase the coarser leaf and banjhis both affecting the quality adversely. Normally, most of the shoots when they become larger with four leaves or more, go banjhi.
Here is the example how a longer plucking round affects the types of harvested shoots. The types of shoots that will be available for plucking on a bush at different plucking rounds are shown below:
Type of Shoots Available at different Plucking Rounds
|Types of shoot left on bush||Type of shoot harvested at different plucking rounds|
|4 days||8 days||12 days|
|Bud||One leaf and the bud||Two leaves and the bud||Three leaves and the bud|
|One leaf and the bud||Two leaves and the bud||Three leaves and the bud||Four leaves and the bud|
|Two leaves and the bud||Three leaves and the bud||Four leaves and the bud||Five leaves and the bud|
Plucking round has effects on both yield and quality of tea. Although adjustment to leaf period is the only rational method for working out the most suitable plucking round, but leaf period varies from place to place as well as within the same locality at different times of the year, if the climate happens to be seasonal. The leaf period become short under high and long under low ambient temperature. Again, under the same set of environmental conditions, leaf period differs from clone to clone. However, to get maximum return in terms of both crop and quality, a suitable plucking round is desirable.
The following points bear importance in working out the plucking round:
(i) Plucking round should be worked out based on leaf period
(ii) Plucking rounds should be short under high or long under low temperature
(iii) Plucking rounds of shorter duration than the optimal reduce crop
(iv) Longer plucking round may increase the gross weight of harvest, but it will contain a high proportion of coarser shoots.
It is not practical to switch over from one plucking round to another according to changing growth rate of shoots.However, in order to maintain a reasonable standard of the leaves, a somewhat shorter than the optimal plucking round should be followed.