• tea;
  • urea;
  • slow release fertiliser;
  • N use efficiency;
  • tea yield and quality;
  • nitrification inhibitor


BACKGROUND: Tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze) is a perennial leaf harvested crop. It requires more nitrogen than most other crops and preferentially utilises NH4+ to NO3 when both are available in the soil. It is expected that slow release fertilisers coupled with a nitrification inhibitor could improve the N use efficiency and simultaneously reduce environmental pollution. In this study, three slow release fertilisers were developed and tested: Ca[BOND]Mg phosphate coated urea with dicyandiamide (DCD) as a nitrification inhibitor and polyolefin coated urea with and without DCD. The main aim was to compare the nitrogen release dynamics and transformation of these fertilisers and their effects on tea yield and quality.

RESULTS: The results showed that the coatings significantly slowed N release and kept mineral N in soils at a higher concentration for a longer time compared to uncoated urea. Polyolefin was a superior coating to Ca[BOND]Mg phosphate. DCD was an effective nitrification inhibitor and significantly reduced the ratio of nitrate to total mineral N in a highly acidic tea soil. The 15N use efficiency was 29% where uncoated fertiliser was applied and 46% where polyolefin coated fertiliser with DCD was applied. The application of slow release fertilisers increased the chlorophyll content in mature leaves and enhanced the uptake of mineral elements by tea plants. Bud sprouting, shoot growth and mature leaf longevity were significantly improved, resulting in higher biomass of tea plants. Slow release fertilisers increased the yield of shoots by 51–143% (mean, 106%) in a pot experiment and 4–14% (mean, 9%) in a field experiment compared to uncoated urea. Tea quality parameters, especially free amino acids, were also significantly increased.

CONCLUSION: Slow release fertilisers, especially polyolefin coated urea with DCD could significantly increase the N use efficiency and improve tea growth. Their uses in tea fields not only improved the profit margin, but possibly reduced environmental pollution. Copyright © 2008 Society of Chemical Industry