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Scarcity of Urea and MoP Harming TN plantations, says UPASI

Tamil Nadu is the largest tea-growing region in South India, accounting for 71.2 percent of total production. However, there is no such problem with fertilizer availability in the other two plantation states of Karnataka and Kerala, according to Cherian.

Shivam Dwivedi
Fertilizing crop field
Fertilizing crop field

Lack of fertilizers, particularly urea and muriate of potash (MoP), is wreaking havoc on the plantation sector in Tamil Nadu, as the time window for nutrient application has passed with the region experiencing summer showers, according to MP Cherian, President of the United Planters Association of South India (UPASI).

Tamil Nadu is the largest tea-growing region in South India, accounting for 71.2 percent of total production. However, there is no such problem with fertilizer availability in the other two plantation states of Karnataka and Kerala, according to Cherian.

A lack of nitrogen, a major nutrient for a vegetative crop like tea, will result in severe nutrient deficiency symptoms, susceptibility to pests and disease, deterioration in tea quality, and a massive loss in productivity. "As a result, in order to sustain the yield of tea in South India, urea and MoP should be made available to tea growers in the growing regions of the Nilgiris and Valparai as soon as possible," Cherian said in a statement.

UPASI has been representing the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers for the allocation of fertilizers, and it has been gathered that there is no issue with the availability of these fertilizers and that the issue appears to be primarily with distribution, particularly in Tamil Nadu, and that too confined to plantations, he said.

The lack of fertilizers will be detrimental to the sustainability and survival of Tamil Nadu's plantation sector, especially given the high wage cost and cost of production, while price realization is declining in real terms. The plantations in the State faced a similar issue of fertilizer scarcity during the same period last year, which had a significant impact on crop production, according to Cherian.

If fertilizers are not made available immediately, the viability of the plantation sector in Tamil Nadu will be jeopardized. UPASI and the State Association, Planters' Association of Tamil Nadu, have been relentlessly pursuing the matter in the hope of providing immediate relief to the plantation sector through the availability of fertilizer.

According to the UPASI Scientific Department, the annual urea requirement for a tea estate yielding 3,000 kg/ha or more is 650 kg/ha. Nitrogen (as urea) and potassium (as muriate of potash) to be applied at a 1:1 (650 kg of urea and 500 kg of MOP) or 4:3 (650 kg of urea and 375 kg of MOP) ratio in different age groups of tea fields based on pruning height. As a result, potassium is equally important for long-term yield, the development of a healthy, robust branch system, and the development of resistance to stem diseases and pests.

Ground application of NK fertilizers is recommended in the plantation sector four to five times per year rather than all twelve months. Depending on the rainfall pattern, the best months for the application are April, May, early June, September, October, and November. Other months are either too dry or too wet for fertilizer application, according to the UPASI statement.

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