Revealed: The 7 tea varieties that hold promise

Tea farm

To reverse losses, the Tea Research Institute (TRI) has recommended seven varieties of tea to be grown by farmers in the South Rift.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

For years, a notorious pest has ravaged tea plantations in Kericho and Bomet, leaving farmers counting heavy losses.

The quality of the leaves they delivered to Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factories was poor, thanks to the mosquito bug.

The helopeltis pest, which mainly affects the PMC51 series of tea clones, pierces and sucks the tip of tea leaves, causing it to change colour from green to brown with black spots.

It makes the affected tea bushes unproductive, leaving farmers with losses in their investment.

The pest is controlled by pruning all shoots, frequent plucking of green leaves, and proper and regular application of NPK fertiliser.

To reverse the losses, the Tea Research Institute (TRI) has recommended seven varieties of tea to be grown by farmers in the South Rift.

Dr Elius Kireger, director-general/CEO of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), under which TRI falls, spoke to the Nation’s Vitalis Kimutai on the pest-tolerant tea clones released to the market.

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TRFK 597/1

It was released in 2014 and is suitable for planting at altitudes of between 1,600 and 2,500 metres above sea level. It matures in three to four years with a projected production of 14-28 tonnes per hectare per annum.

Credited with high catechin content, the clone is suitable for high-quality black tea.
It is low in caffeine, is drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant and has a yield potential similar to the high-yielding standard check and commercial clone TRFK 31/8.
It has wide adaptability and is suitable for all designated tea growing regions.

TRFK 704/2

The clone is suitable for processing high-quality green tea and has low caffeine and low catechin content.
It was released to the market in 2014 and is recommended for planting in areas at altitudes of between 1,600 and 2,500 metres. It attains maturity in three to four years, with projected production of 14-28 tonnes per hectare per year.
It is drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant, has wide adaptability and is suitable for all designated tea growing regions and has a yield potential similar to the high-yielding standard check and commercial clone TRFK 31/8.

KTRI 895/17

The clone released in 2021 is good for altitudes of between 1,800 and 2,500 metres. It matures in three to four years with a yield of 14-28 tonnes per hectare per annum.
It is drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant besides having a wide adaptability, thus making it suitable for all designated high tea growing regions. It is suitable for high-quality green orthodox tea. It has low polyphenol content and is a slow fermenter.

KTRI 914/11

It is suitable for growing at altitudes of between 1,800 and 2,500 metres and matures in three to four years with an average yield of 14-28 tonnes per hectare per annum.
It has low polyphenol content (17.6 per cent) and moderate pubescence and is a moderate fermenter. The clone is recommended for planting as it is drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant.

It has wide adaptability and is suitable for all designated high-yielding tea growing regions and is suitable for high-quality green orthodox tea.

KTRI 914/28

It is suitable for growing at altitudes of between 1,800 and 2,500 metres. It matures in three to four years, with an average of between 14-28 tonnes per hectare per year.
Besides being drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant, it has moderately high polyphenol content of 21.5 per cent, has moderate pubescence and is a slow fermenter.

It has a yield potential of over 30 per cent higher than the high-yielding standard check and commercial clone TRFK 31/8.

It has wide adaptability and is suitable for all designated high-yielding tea growing regions and is also suitable for high-quality black and green orthodox teas.

KTRI 914/39

It is suitable for growing at altitudes of between 1,800 and 2,500 metres. It matures in three to four years, and has the ability to produce between 14-27 tonnes of green leaf per year.

It has moderately high polyphenol content of 21.7 per cent, has moderate pubescence, is a slow fermenter and has a yield potential of over 25 per cent higher than the high-yielding standard check and commercial clone TRFK 31/8.

Besides being drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant, it has a wide adaptability and is suitable for all designated high-yielding tea growing regions.

It is suitable for high-quality black orthodox and Crush, Tear and Curl (CTC) teas.

KTRI 895/7

It has moderately high polyphenol content of 20.8 percent, has a yield potential of over 25 percent higher than the high-yielding standard check and commercial clone TRFK 31/8.

Apart from having moderate pubescence, it is a slow fermenter, and is drought, frost, disease and pest tolerant. It has a wide adaptability and is suitable for all designated high-yielding tea growing regions.

It is suitable for high-quality black orthodox and Crush, Tear and Crush (CTC) teas.

It is recommended for planting at altitudes of 1,800-2,500 above sea level. It matures in three to four years and can produce 14-27 tonnes of green leaf per hectare per year.

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