Most of the tea planted on Tanganda Estates originated from Indian seed, but the Company policy has been for some time, to plant out the latest clonal varieties which improve quality and yields.
The Ratelshoek, Jersey and Zona plantations now consist of 20 percent clonal with the most recent estate, Avontuur, being completely clonal. At Ratelshoek, sections of the earliest tea was replanted to clonal varieties and under correct irrigation and fertilising, has yielded in excess of 6,000 kilograms (kgs) per hectare of made tea. The focus now is to correct soil and foliage deficiencies and with correct irrigation, bring the average yield up to 5,000 kgs per hectare.
It is intended in the near future to recommence a replanting programme on all the estates, starting obviously with the older, low yielding areas. In Malawi, with similar climactic conditions to Chipinge, new clonal plantations under correct irrigation are averaging in excess of 6,000 Kgs per hectare.
In Southern Africa, companies such as Tanganda produce very little tea during the winter months of May/August, due to shorter daylight hours and cooler weather. Conversely, during the warmer months from November to March, tea is prolific in growth when up to 70 percent of the annual crop is produced.
To sustain the health of the plantations and produce maximum yields, it has been found necessary to apply irrigation before the rains between August and October and extending the rains into April/May. In addition to this, set fertislier, folial spray policies must be managed timeously and strictly adhered to.
Tea bushes can take up to seven years to reach maturity and optimum yields, some varieties of clonal, can achieve this in less time. The standard of plucking sets the quality of the made tea. Fine plucking is practised in Kenya and Rwanda etc, with totally different growing conditions and the crop is well spread out over the year, where a plucking standard of two leaves and a bud is set, producing high quality tea.
Workers at one of the tea nurseries