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Climate change brews multi-challenges for tea


Guwahati: In the backdrop of the just-concluded COP21 talks in Paris, as nations across the world discussed ways to tackle the monster called climate change, back home, India’s favourite beverage, tea, is facing some major challenges as a result of it – from low yield to new pests.

Scientists at Assam’s Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TRI) say that erratic rainfall over the years is a major concern for the tea industry. The first flush – the early leaves which are delicate and have a gentle aroma – which is harvested mid-March, has been affected by the changing rain patterns.

R N Bhagat, one of the scientists at Tocklai, said: “In the last 100 years in Assam, we have lost around 22.1 cm of rainfall. With this decrease and a shift in rainfall distribution, the tea industry is losing the first flush that comes in March-April. Spraying of fertilizers is timed with the rainfall pattern, but with no rain, the fertilizers have no impact.”

Then again, with no rain, the relative humidity in March-April is also lowering, further affecting the first flush. “It used to be 80 percent, but in 2015 it was recorded around 52-54 percent,” Bhagat told IANS.

In a discussion organised by the Centre for Environment Education and The Third Pole under the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme (IHCAP), Bhagat said that tea is a self-adapting plant and has been sustaining rising temperatures – the summer saw more than 35 degrees Celsius while tea grows ideally between 13-30 degrees C.

Even then, it cannot tackle all changes – like a spurt in new pests as a result of changing weather patterns.

N. Muraleedharan, director of Tocklai, said: “White flies is a new species of pest which has been reported mostly from the Assam belt. It is minute and travels in hoards. There has also been an increase in pests like thrips, tea mosquitoes, scale insects and green hoppers, as a result of which the intensity of damage on tea is more.”

“As a result of the change in weather patterns, there is a decrease in leaf quality too,” he went on to say.

What all of this translates into is production being affected. And to increase production, the tea managements generally use more chemicals, leading to more biotic stress on the plant. According to the scientists, there are two kinds of stress – abiotic (drought, flood) and biotic (pests and the like caused by flood and drought).

“This also means that the total production cost of the tea estates is increasing. Earlier Rs.4,000-5,000 was used for pesticides, per hectare. Now it has gone up to Rs.20,000-25,000. Irrigation costs have also increased,” Bhagat said.

With such multi-pronged challenges being thrown at tea by changing environmental conditions, scientists are now working on developing clones that would have the best chances of survival in the future.

“We have simulated future scenarios of climatic conditions, like higher carbon dioxide, and are looking at how tea plants behave. In one or one and a half years’ time, we should be able to announce future clones to the industry,” Bhagat said.

Scientists also developed a seed-stock that is drought resistant and released it in September on an experimental basis, which got good results.

The changing climatic conditions and more pests have also steered many gardens into adopting indigenous plants that naturally repel tea-harming insects. “In this matter, organic tea is much more climate resilient than the chemical version. And its demand is high too. But it is more expensive,” Muraleedharan said.

So, it is an uncertain future for the steaming cup of ‘chai’ in your hands. But, as experts keep brainstorming to keep the deluge of problems from the tea plants, the good news is that all hope is not lost. Not yet. (Azera Rahman, IANS)

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Climate change driving dramatic rise in sea levels: NASA

The researchers said that the speed of the acceleration can be affected by geological events such as volcanic eruptions or by climate patterns such as El Nino and La Nina

This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
  • Sea levels are at the risk of rising due to rapid climate change
  • Sea levels are expected to rise twice as high by 2100
  • It is now high time we do something about the climate change

The sea level may rise twice as high by 2100 as previously estimated as a result of climate change, a new NASA study says.

According to the findings detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, arise in sea level may increase by up to 65 centimetres in the next 80 years, enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, reported on Friday.

ISS is a permanent base for astronauts stationed in the outer sky. Wikimedia Commons
Sea levels are rising due to climate change: NASA. Wikimedia Commons

“This is almost certainly a conservative estimate,” said Steve Nerem, Professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, who led the NASA Sea Level Change team that conducted the study.

This acceleration has been driven mainly by increased ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica, the study said.

Also Read: Space station crew will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times, says NASA

The findings are based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data.

Sea levels are constantly rising which is a matter of great concern.
Sea levels are constantly rising which is a matter of great concern.

“Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that is not likely,” Nerem said in a statement.

Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways.

First, warmer water expands, and this “thermal expansion” of the ocean has contributed about half of the seven centimetres of global mean sea level rise that has been observed over the past 25 years, Nerem said.

Second, the water from melting land ice flows into the ocean, which also increases sea level around the world. The rate of sea level rise has risen from about 2.5 millimetres per year in the 1990s to about 3.4 millimetres per year today, the researchers said.

NASA constantly monitors climate change and its effects.

These increases have been measured by satellite altimeters since 1992, including the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3 missions, which have been jointly managed by NASA, France’s Centre national d’etudes spatiales, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Also Read: NASA’s Kepler Discovers Nearly 100 New Exoplanets

The researchers said that the speed of the acceleration can be affected by geological events such as volcanic eruptions or by climate patterns such as El Nino and La Nina.

They used climate models and other data sets to account for the volcanic effects and to determine the El Nino /La Nina effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying rate and acceleration of sea level rise. IANS