Let us first discuss about the pruning of mature tea in N.E. India and after that we will learn about pruning in other countries
In the plains of N.E. India, earlier tea was pruned annually when bushes became dormant at the end of the growing season. The tea bushes in this region enter into the winter dormancy normally from December and tea bushes were pruned during this period. This annual pruning method is no longer followed but unlike in other parts of the world, it is still a usual practice to cut the bushes very lightly at the end of each season which we refer it as “skiffing”.
In the present system of tea pruning in N.E.India, bushes are pruned every 2 to 4 years. However, at the end of the year the bushes are lightly cut. The light cut given to the bushes is known as skiffing. The skiffs are very light forms of cut and are not severe enough to be termed as ‘prune’. Leaving the bushes unpruned (no pruning or skiffing) for one or two years in between two prune years is also common in N.E. India.
Introduction of skiffing has eliminated the necessity of pruning every year which was done earlier. At the end of the pruned year, the bushes may be deep skiffed, medium skiffed, light skiffed or just leveled by giving a level skiff and these type of skiffing operations may be repeated in the succeeding two to six years. The objectives of skiffing are:
i) To obtain an early crop
ii) To obtain more first flush, second flush, and total crop
iii) To thicken the pruning wood, and
iv) To improve the health of the bush.
You should know that the systems of pruning vary with the stages of the life of a tea bush. These are: formative pruning, maintenance pruning and corrective pruning. Formative pruning is done to train the plants to form a low bush and this has been already known to you. The different types of maintenance and corrective pruning as based on the severity of the cuts adopted on tea are described in the next Chapter.