Are you looking for the best tea fertilizer to increase yields? Then we have what you are looking for. In Kenya, the tea sector faces many challenges, such as low prices in the international market. The low prices are mainly due to increased tea exports that cause surplus. This is even though tea consumption has increased by more than 30%.
The second biggest challenge affecting the tea sector is the increased cost of inputs. These inputs range from labor costs and production costs, such as the price of tea fertilizer. Most tea farmers find it challenging to buy the right fertilizer either because they lack the knowledge or are financially constrained.
It is for this reason that we prepared this tea guide. Tea farmers will understand the different nutrients required to make their tea business thrive. You will also know how to detect deficiencies before they affect the entire farm.
How to Prepare your Tea Farm
Contrary to popular belief, tea farming is not only about fertilizer. Your tea farm will thrive if you get the entire process right from the word go. Below is a guide on how to ensure maximum tea yields on your farm:
The first step is to have your soil tested. If we do the soil test for you, we will evaluate three main factors that might affect your yields. The first thing that we investigate is the PH levels of your farm. For a tea farm, the recommended PH levels should be 4-5. The farm will also do well when located in altitudes of between 1000 – 2500m.
The second thing we look out for is the soil condition regarding pathogens and diseases. Diseases that can reduce your yields include the root Phytophthora disease, blister blight disease and the Poria root disease.
Early detection of these diseases will help you control them before spreading on your farm.
The third thing that we investigate is the nutrient composition of your soil. We look at whether it has enough beneficial nutrients to ensure your tea farm thrives. Some of the nutrients we look out for include phosphorus which is vital for root development, and calcium. Other nutrients we look out for include zinc, magnesium, and boron.
Based on the soil test results, we will advise on the type of fertilizer to use and what to avoid.
Fertilizer Application for Tea Farms
Farmers should apply tea fertilizer after the first rains, usually in March. We recommend this because the soil will be moist; hence the soil will quickly absorb the fertilizer in the ground. The soil should be moist up to a depth of 45 cm.
When applying fertilizer, ensure you do it on the weed-free ground and avoid applying it during heavy rains. Farmers should apply manure in two splits: the first should be during the March-April rains, and the second should be during the August-September rains.
Fertilizer can also be applied using the broadcasting method. When using this method, ensure that you do not apply it in lumps, especially the collar region. This is because, if applied in lumps, the manure might burn the roots causing damage.
When using a foliar fertilizer, you must always ensure it is adequately mixed. Also, ensure that you do not use a sprayer that had been previously used on herbicides.
Note: Always monitor the spraying process to avoid excess spray fluid because it may scorch the foliage.
Fertilizer Recommendation for Tea
As indicated earlier, the type of tea fertilizer to use will depend on the soil test results. The best fertilizer should contain different types of nutrients, such as sulfur. This nutrient is essential, especially if your land is too alkaline.
Sulfur helps acidify the land to the recommended ph level. In case you decide to use sulfur, make sure you apply only the recommended quantities because excess sulfur can damage the roots.
If the soil is too acidic, you can use agricultural lime or organic manure such as Safi Sarvi to help deacidify the soil. If the tea plantation is too alkaline, you can use Aluminium sulfate to acidify the soil.
Research has shown that tea absorbs nutrients better when applied in a solution. Foliar application is preferred when you urgently need to rectify a nutrient deficiency and to rectify a deficiency during the dry or cold seasons. Also, it is advisable to remedy zinc deficiency using foliar.
Fertilizer for Nurseries
When tea is in seedling form, ensure the soil PH is not more than 5.8. Farmers should apply the Fertilizer every four months once the seedling is atleast 15cm tall. The second application should contain ammonium sulfate applied at the rate of 16g/cm2.
Fertilizer for Young Tea
When the tea is young, you should use three main fertilizers; nitrogen, potassium, and calcium. The ratio should be 5:1:1. As a golden rule, never apply fertilizer in dry soil because it might destroy the root.
In the first year after planting, manure should be added to the soil at eight-week intervals at the rate of 2grams per plant. If the plants are sleeved, use 12 grams of NPK at the ratio of 25:5:5.
Symptoms of Nutrient Deficiencies in Tea
Nitrogen Deficiency- Nitrogen deficiency can be seen from the leaves, which first appear light green and then turn yellowish as it matures. This reduces yields because auxiliary buds do not develop, resulting in fewer shots.
Potassium Deficiency- Potassium deficiency causes leaves to fall, with branches of younger plants appearing thin and weak.
Phosphorus deficiency- Affected tea leaves will appear dull and lack natural gloss.
Sulphur Deficiency- The leaves turn yellow between the veins, and after some time, they turn more yellow and drop off from the branch.
If you want to know about other types of fertilizer, such as the best onion fertilizer to increase yields by more than 50%, feel free to read more in our blog section.