Tea (Camellia sinensis L.) is a perennial evergreen shrub managed intensively for continuous growth of young shoots. Most tea plantations were established at the expense of native forest. Change in carbon (C) and nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (NPK)) accumulation in forests over time has been intensively studied, but how C and NPK stocks in tea plantations are associated with age, genotype and plant density have not been reported yet in literature. To get a better insight in the effects of age and the associated change in genotype (clone or seedling) and density on C and NPK stocks data were collected in a chronosequence of tea plantations by destructive sampling of whole tea bushes. Four plantations differing in age (76-, 43-, 29- and 14-year old) and genotype¿density combinations were selected. The 76- and 43-year old plantations were composed of seedlings planted at a relative low density: a spacing of 1.52¿×¿0.91 m and 1.22¿×¿1.22 m, respectively, whereas in the 29- and 14-year old plantations an improved clonal cultivar was grown at higher plant densities: a spacing of 1.22¿×¿0.61 m and 1.22¿×¿0.76 m, respectively. Total dry matter weights (DM) of tea bushes increased with age from 9.0 to 11.5 kg in clonal bushes and from 13.5 and 19.9 kg in seedling bushes for the 14- and 29-year, and the 43- and 76-year old plantations, respectively. Most DM was stored in the woody tissue of the tea bush frame. Total C- stocks expressed per unit area (ha) amounted to 44 and 72, and 43 and 69 t C ha¿1 for clonal and seedling bushes, respectively. Total N stocks ranged from 732 to 995 and from 734 to 1,200 kg ha¿1, P stocks from 78 to 120 and from 67 to 92 kg ha¿1, and K stocks from 775 to 901 and from 646 to 1,120 kg ha¿1 for clonal and seedling bushes, respectively. It is concluded that older stands of seedling and clonal tea plantations result in higher C and NPK stocks. Higher stocks may be functional in maintaining yield stability under adverse weather conditions. Plantations with higher nutrient stocks are less responsive to nutrient supply and therefore will require lower fertilizer applications.
- dry-matter production
- below-ground biomass