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Researchers release new high-yielding tea variety

Tea farmers have a reason to smile and hope for better returns following the launch of a new clone that is high-yielding and drought resistant by the Tea Research Institute (TRI).

Tea Research Institute (TRI) has called on tea farmers to embrace the new clone TRFK 31/8 which they say is also resistant to diseases, and has wide adaptability to ever-changing weather patterns.

Speaking to KNA during the West of Rift Region training of Tea Services Extension Assistants in Kericho, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Manager for Sustainable Agriculture and Certification Mr.

Salesio Kaberia pointed out that the agency is sensitizing the tea stakeholders on the introduction of the replanting program whereby the old varieties with low production are uprooted and replaced with the new clones.

He said the old tea bushes are majorly affected by the adverse effects of climate change which influences tea yields across the board by altering precipitation levels, increasing temperatures, shifting the timing of seasons, and encouraging insect pests.

“That is why we are encouraging tea farmers to adapt to the new varieties and once the old varieties are uprooted, the new clones planted only take a maximum of two years to mature under skilful husbandry and cultivation.” Added Mr. Kaberia

KTDA is engaging 139 Tea Service Extension Assistants in rigorous training on the latest technology in tea production and equipping them with knowledge on changes in the industry, a seminar which Mr. Kaberia intimated happens every two years in the West of Rift Region and the East of Rift Region.

The West of the Rift Region comprises Bomet, Kericho, Kisii, Nyamira, Trans Nzoia, Kakamega, Vihiga, and Nakuru while the East of the Rift Region that will receive the same training next month comprises Muranga, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Meru, Embu, and Tharaka Nithi Counties.

He further revealed that during the three-day training session, the Tea Services Extension Assistants will also benefit from a refresher course on the agronomic practices that farmers should employ such as fertilizer application, farm management, and also record keeping.

“Tea Services Extension Assistants are crucial field officers who train farmers on application of fertilizer, plucking of quality tea leaf; effective management of tea nurseries and also assist farmers in planting quality tea plants and carrying out a census of plant population,” Mr. Kaberia explained.

He said the training engagements were crucial to KTDA in gathering of feedback from tea services extension assistants who deal with tea farmers on a day-to-day basis and the data collated by the Tea Research Institute for necessary action.

By Kibe Mburu and Jemmimah Chemutai

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