Climate Change Brings Hard Times For Tea Producers

Climate Change Brings Hard Times For Tea ProducersTea is of vital economic importance to millions of people in rural areas of countries such as China. Image: J Aaron Farr via Flickr

Research in China shows that the changing monsoon pattern in East Asia and heavier rainfall is having a detrimental effect on the yield and quality of tea.

Slow changes in the annual monsoon season may be reducing yields in one of the world’s most important crops – and gradually watering down the tea in China.

Scientists in the US have used a new approach to examine harvests of Camellia sinensis – the evergreen bush whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea − in southern Yunnan and other regions of China, and have identified a decline that could only be linked to the retreat of the monsoon, along with greater levels of downpour.

That climate change in the form of greater extremes of heat and drought and flood will affect crop yields overall is well-established, but what matters to farmers is what gradual global warming and subtle shifts in seasonal weather patterns will bring to specific crops in traditional agricultural provinces.

For the moment, wine harvests in areas of France may have benefited from earlier springs and warmer summers, and the overall shift in average temperatures has brought new hope to the once-struggling English vineyards.

Economic importance

But tea – the most consumed beverage in the world, after water, and celebrated by the 18th-century English poet William Cowper as “the cups, that cheer but not inebriate” – is grown in 50 countries, but is of vital economic importance to 80 million rural people in China and at least three million in India.

Rebecca Boehm, PhD candidate at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in the US, and colleagues report in Climate journal that rather than match annual production figures with the calendar dates of the east Asian monsoon onset, they looked at regional rainfall figures from 1980 to 2011 to decide precisely when the rainy season could be said to have begun and ended.

And their “yield response model” identified a set of incremental changes that each seemed to affect harvests.

“We hope that our approach will enable researchers to more accurately assess how monsoon and seasonal dynamics affect crop productivity”

A 1% increase in the date of the monsoon retreat could be linked to a reduction in yields of between 0.48% and 0.535%. An increase of 1%  in average daily rainfall could be associated with a drop in yield of 0.18% to 0.26%. And a drop of 1% in solar radiation the previous growing season could mean a 0.55 to 0.86% fall in yields.

Tea is not a simple crop. The buds form on the evergreen perennial bush, and growers and skilled workers have to decide when to pick to deliver the product with the best flavour.

Producers have to maintain quality, but tea in particular is an astonishing mix of flavonoids, caffeine, non-protein amino acids and other natural chemicals that vary according to growing conditions, but which have been linked to human health.

Management techniques

Epidemiological studies have associated tea-drinking to lower rates of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, depressive symptoms and reduced incidence of cold and ’flu symptoms.

Boehm says:

“If monsoon periods continue to be longer and produce heavier daily rainfalls that could reduce tea yield and quality, then there needs to be changes in management techniques, such as possibly planting tea varietals that are more tolerant of increased precipitation, or managing soil in ways to increase water-holding capacity.”

The methodology could be employed to examine yield changes in other places, and with other crops.

“We hope that our approach will enable researchers to more accurately assess how monsoon and seasonal dynamics affect crop productivity in tropical and subtropical regions globally,” Boehm adds.

– Climate News Network

About the Author

Tim Radford, freelance journalistTim Radford is a freelance journalist. He worked for The Guardian for 32 years, becoming (among other things) letters editor, arts editor, literary editor and science editor. He won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times. He served on the UK committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He has lectured about science and the media in dozens of British and foreign cities. 

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolutionBook by this Author:

Science that Changed the World: The untold story of the other 1960s revolution
by Tim Radford.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon. (Kindle book)



English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese

LATEST VIDEOS

Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
by MSNBC
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
by MSNBC
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…

LATEST ARTICLES

Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…