Influence of one and two node cuttings on rapid vegetatively propagated infilling tea (camellia sinesis) plants
Mwangi, Simon Mwai
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The tea industry in Kenya is rural-based and provides a livelihood to over three million people. Tea is grown in prime agricultural land and can be potentially productive for 100 years if well managed. Peak yields under optimal management are obtained at 20–40 years after planting only if gaps that arise due to factors such as lightening, pests, diseases, unfavorable climatic conditions and incorrect pruning are taken care of through an elaborate infilling program and use of appropriate infilling plants. Infilling in tea farms is however faced with a challenge of lack of suitable infilling plants since commonly used single node cuttings take very long in the nursery and is less robust to compete with established ones. The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate the suitability of vegetatively propagated (VP) tea plants raised from two nodes as opposed to single node cuttings as infilling plants. The study was conducted at tea nurseries of KTDA Kangaita and Kagochi farms in Kirinyaga and Nyeri Counties, respectively. The treatments were two types of cuttings namely single node cutting (SNC) and two node cutting (TNC) from three tea clones (TRFK 31/8, TRFK 6/8 and AHP S15/10). The experimental design was CRD with split arrangements where main plot was the node cutting (2) and subplot was constituted by three clones. The treatment comprised a set of 200 cuttings and was replicated thrice in the two different sites. The parameters measured were survival count, ability to produce two shoots, number of new leaves and size, root and shoot length, and root biomass. All data collected were subjected to analysis of variance (p≤0.05) and where significant differences among treatments were found the means were separated using Least Significant Difference (LSD). The SAS statistical package was employed in all analyses. Results revealed that TNC had superior performance in most parameters measured compared to SNC with clone TRFK 31/8 showing better performance in more parameters than other clones apart from the ability to produce two shoots from TNC. The results showed that apical dominance in tea is not absolute and therefore a good number of cuttings grown as two node cutting (TNC) were capable of producing two shoots, a characteristic desirable for an infilling plant. The outcome of the study shows that tea farm productivity can be increased through faster development of healthy and robust infilling plants using TNC than through the conventional method employing SNC. It is therefore recommended that tea growers requiring faster infilling plants can use TNC in the tea nurseries. A further research to explore suitability of cuttings with more than two nodes needs to be undertaken.