Sunday, July 17, 2011

Intercropping Tea with Rubber

The tappers have counted all the rubber trees in the 10 acres of our garden. There are 960 trees in our Estate. The average tree density of rubber is about 160 trees. Whereas ours is 96, that is nearly 60% of the tree density of an average rubber plantation.
 Our Rubber Plantation in a Misty Day

The low tree density has both advantages and disadvantages. The direct impact is the low yeild per acre. We cannot expect more than 30 kilos of daily avarge yeild from the pentire plantation. That is less than 20 kilos of our initial expectation.

The great advantage is the possibility of intercropping. Intercropping is promoted recenly in monocrops like rubber and tea to increase the productivity of the land in order to diversify income sources and increase the potential income. Intercropping will also help to generate income particularly during rainny periods.

The biggest disadvantage for multicropping in rubber estates is lack of sunlight within the plantation for other crops to grow. The thick foliage cover of the crown prevents sunlight filtering to the grond. This prevents possibility of growing other crops in the ground. Although the rubber smallholders have tried growing tea, pineapples and bananas in rubber plantations of Sri Lanka, multicropping is often failed due to lack of sunlight in the rubber estates. Ours is a blessing in disguise.
Poor State of the Tea Plantation

The main intercrop of our Estate is tea. We have a nearly an one acre of tea plantation, which is nearly five years old. It has also been severely neglected without weeding, proning and fertilizing. We are blessed with our tappers, they have got all the knowledge and experience to maintain the tea plantation and to manage/develop it further.

Overgrown Tea Bush

Our tappers work in the tea plantation every afternoon, weeding, proning and fertilizing the trees. Weeding is a tedious task. Weeding needs to be done manually, pulling out all the grass and weed under the rows of trees. They cut overgrown branches with a knife specially made for proning tea plants. One may think that weeding increases soil erosion. But the tea bushes work as a perfect cover to prevent direct rains hitting the bare soil. Besides the weeded vegeration is placed between rows to decay.

Rows of Tea Bushes: Main Intercrop of Our Estate

They prone the tea bush to a height of 1.5 ft from the ground. Once the weeding and proning is completed, they will fertilize the trees to increase the leaf production. The tea plantations are fertilized during the drizzles, July is the ideal time for fertilizing. We are in the process of upgrading the condition of our little tea plantation!


Laura said...

Dear Salia,

I'm making a study about biological production systems in the tropics and I'm very interested in your plantation.

Is it possible to take an overview picture of your plantation? That would be a great help to get an overall idea of your estate.

Thanks a lot!


Salila said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks for viewing my blog. I will be able to take a photograph from the top of the mountain when we visit the estate next time. Please send me your email address to send it.

Kind regards,


Aminul hoque chy. said...

Dear Saila,
Greetings from Bangladesh.I read your article and it will be helping me to take my decision.

Recently i took the responsibility of our family Rubber plantation. Now and onward i have to take care of the plantation. The age of the plantation is 20 above. Previously it was look after one of my elder brother and his wife.They didn't take care properly to weeding ,fertilizing and tapping.
I have few knowledge but it is not sufficient to solve these issue.
After reading your two articles about weed , fertilizing and inter cropping then i am decided to seek your advice -Pls advice me how you overcome your above problem ?
and also advice me about the viability of inter cropping of Tea middle in the raw and the management of tea plantation. My plantation size is 25 acres and i have another vacant plot adjacent to existing plantation.
If tea plantation is economically suitable then i wish to go for that way....
Thanks a lot !

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