Labor Shortages on Indian Tea Plantations Result in Need for Herbicides

Scraping Weeds In Tea Fields

Scraping Weeds In Tea Fields

Historically, the most common method of weed control on tea plantations in India was to manually scrape the weeds off the surface of the soil. However, this is a labor-intensive method and needs to be repeated at regular intervals. The paucity of labor in the tea gardens of south India has made weeding a difficult exercise. Presently, tea growers rely heavily on herbicides to control weeds due to labor shortages for manual weeding.

“Grassy weeds reduce the productivity of tea by 21 per cent, while broad-leaved weeds accounts for 9-12 per cent. Weeds remove substantial amount of nutrients and moisture from the soil besides increasing the incidence of pests and diseases in crop by serving as alternate host.

Herbicides, as a tool for controlling weeds in tea plantations is very much popular and have been widely used ever since their introduction – primarily due to their cost effectiveness, efficiency in controlling diverse weed flora and less labour intensiveness, etc. Tea plantations alone use about 20 per cent of the total quantity of herbicides used in India.

Mechanical and manual control of weed are costly, time consuming, laborious and sometimes injurious to feeder roots of young tea plants in comparison to herbicidal control of weeds. Such methods are also limited by non-availability of labours in peak season.These methods require about 75 man days/ha annually for young tea and 35 man days for mature tea while, 15 man days/ha for young tea and 8 man days for mature tea in the first year are required for herbicidal control of weeds excluding the cost of herbicides.

At present, herbicides worth over Rs.7 crores are being used by tea industry of North East. India alone is expected to increase further in view of acute shortage of labours in time and escalating wages of labour.”

Authors: Rajkhowa, D. J., et al.
Affiliation: National Research Centre for Weed Science.
Title: Weed management in tea.
Source: NRC for Weed Science, Jabalpur.2005. Pgs. 3-13.

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