Kolkata, June 5 (IANS) India, which recently launched its tea genome sequencing project, is not going to replicate the work done by the Chinese but instead aims to develop climate-smart tea plantations with the genomic boost, an official here said.

“We launched the project in the first week of April and a Chinese group published a paper on their work a month later. Many are of the opinion that India has, perhaps, missed the bus. We are not replicating the work that China has done. Our target cultivar is Assam type (Camellia assamica) and that is Indian-origin tea,” Biswajit Bera, Director (Research) at Tea Board of India, Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry said on Monday.

“Once the project is completed, we are going to have a climate smart tea plantation wherein we will target development of tea cultivars according to our own need,” he said.

In a study that offers clues why tea is so popular worldwide, Chinese researchers announced on May 1 they have successfully sequenced the genome of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, known as tea tree, for the first time, Xinhua reported.

The genus Camellia contains over 100 species, but the most popular varieties of tea, including black tea, green tea, Oolong tea, white tea, and chai, all come from the leaves of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis.

India’s tea genome mapping project involves six institutes — three Tea Research Institutes, National Tea Research Foundation (NTRF), ICAR, CSIR. This exercise will help in the development of superior tea cultivars using genome sequence information, Bera said.

“This will be a two-phased programme. We will generate huge genetic resource information which will be co-related with field data specifying different traits or characters. Like, for Darjeeling, we are targetting the disease blister blight. For different areas of tea plantation in India, we are targetting different traits which will be co-related with this genome sequencing. In addition, the genetic data will also aid in developing package and practices to overcome adverse climatic stress,” Bera said.

Genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality and other attributes.

Bera, a botanist, said there are three main tea varieties: India tea (Assam), China tea and hybrid tea.

Bera was speaking at a workshop on ‘Sustainable Development of Tea-Gardens and Issues of Urban Wetland’ organised here by IIT Kharagpur and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Around 40 students and faculty from both institutions, who are jointly researching the tea gardens in North Bengal, participated in the event.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.