The Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (P) Limited possesses the most integrated Research & Development department in the corporate sector of the Indian tea industry, with the prime objective of the department being ‘to provide a strong scientific base to the Company’s core operations - the plantations and conceive and develop new innovative technologies’. The R&D department is recognized by Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India, under the Industrial R&D Programme.
The major facilities of the department include full-fledged laboratories and experimental plots at Madupatty Estate, and the department covers the entire gamut of operations such as plant improvement, biotechnology & microbiology, agronomy, soil map project, quality control, manufacturing, quality & processes, new product development, projects other than tea, monitoring of weather data, advisory/estate visits and training.
Extensive trials carried out on plant improvement has resulted in the release of seven tea clones and two biclonal seed stocks of high yield and superior quality. Biclonal seed baries of different combinations of selected clones were established in different estates and their progenies are being evaluated for important agronomic traits like yield, quality and resistance to drought, frost and pest & diseases. Nursery grafting technique has been successfully used to increase the yield of quality clones by grafting the same on high yielding/drought tolerant clone. Method to produce white tea (silvery tips) from selected tea clones is standardized, and the germplasm collection of tea established at Madupatty comprising various cultivars from different tea growing regions is very unique.
Plant tissue culture and molecular biology is another frontier area of research. Micropropagation techniques were standardized for tea and other species like small cardamom, large
cardamom, vanilla, black pepper, scented rose and certain fuel species (Eucalyptus). Protocols have also been developed for micropropagation of some commercial ornamental crops also.
Waste utilization and recycling is another important area of research. Conversion of agro waste into rich organic manure using vermin-tech process has been streamlined. Vermicompost is used commercially in all nurseries as well as fields for better growth. Various biofertilizers and biocontrol agents are being isolated, evaluated and mass multiplied for commercial applications. For mass multiplication of Trichoderma viride, nutritionally rich vermicompost is being used as a carrier material to ensure exceptionally high colony forming units (CFUs).
Agronomic studies are carried out regularly and cultural practices followed by the company are updated periodically. Newly launched agrochemicals and implements are also being evaluated for their suitability as per the requirements of the company. Provenance trials of Eucalyptus are being carried out to evaluate different species/cultivars under the forestry programme. Introduction of Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) in tea plantations for soil and water conservation is an important contribution by the department.
Soil fertility status in various estates is monitored periodically through a Soil Map Project, and appropriate corrective actions are recommended, based on the analytical results. Quality control is another area of priority and all agricultural inputs used by the plantations are tested for their quality requirements before use. The department coordinates various activities related to ISI, GMP, QMS, Rainforest Alliance and ISO 22000 certifications in the plantations/processing facilities. Experiments on new product development/process improvement and quality assurance of products against various requirements are carried out based on requirements. Methods are being developed for testing products to ensure compliance to regulatory requirements and MRLs.
The department also undertakes studies related to other than plantation crops such as medicinal and aromatic plants, and their processing for value addition