- Additional Plants: tea
- Crop Production: cover crops, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
Tea, Camellia sinensis, is currently under investigation as a potential new crop for growers in the southeastern United States. Tea is the second most consumer beverage globally, behind water, and the U.S. is the third largest importer of tea. Although tea can be grown in many parts of the U.S., and there are tea growers in at least 16 states, Hawaii is the only state with an established, extension-supported tea industry, and research to support mainland growers is lacking. Projects underway at the University of Florida and Mississippi State University are investigating regional suitability of currently available U.S. tea genotypes, but no work has yet been done examining sustainable production systems for the Southeast, particularly from economic and environmental standpoints. This work proposes to examine several cover and shade cropping systems for tea production in an effort to identify a growing system that favors establishment and productivity of tea while minimizing weed and disease pressure, and building a health soil microbial population capable of cycling nutrients and maximizing resource use efficiency.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Establish cover cropping systems at three sites, and examine the impacts of each system on tea plant growth and physiology, leaf yield and quality, weed and disease incidence, nitrogen and water use efficiency, and specific aspects of the soil microbial community related to nutrient cycling.
- Incorporate a hands on educational opportunity for cohorts of graduate students who will directly assist growers with implementation and refinement of tea cropping systems that are sustainable in the Southeastern U.S.