LIPTON Teas and Infusions starts advanced climate change field trials

LIPTON Teas and Infusions, the world’s largest tea group, in partnership with Cranfield University, and with support from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and UK Tea & Infusions Association (UKTIA), has begun field trials to test climate change mitigation and resilience practices that will improve tea production standards.

Tea already has the second lowest carbon footprint after tap water, but about a quarter of its total greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to fertilizer use. Part funded by the BBSRC as a Prosperity Partnership, trials are underway in the Kericho region of Kenya to develop solutions to reduce nitrogen fertilizer-related emissions.

Co-led and managed by Dr Helen Saini, Head of R&D Sustainable Agriculture at LIPTON Teas and Infusions. And Professor Andrew Thompson at Cranfield University, the partnership will use drone imagery and analysis for improved crop management, precision farming and high-throughput canopy phenotyping for the development of climate resilient tea plant varieties.

Recorded emissions data will also inform a new tea typeology led by the UKTIA, the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada and the Tea Association of the USA, that will enable tea producers to calculate their carbon footprint with greater accuracy, with results that are comparable across the tea industry. This is intended for use by the whole tea industry.

The trials will add to the scientific understanding of tea production, leading to better quality tea, less wastage and lower environmental footprint. They build on previous work by LIPTON Teas and Infusions and Cranfield University, including the development of an Internet of Things platform dedicated to tea crop management called loTea that incorporates tea plant growth and development modelling.

The research findings will contribute to industry-wide progress through inclusion in the Lipton Tea Innovation & Technology Academy curricula. This Academy provides vocational training as well as degrees up to doctoral level to develop the highest standards of tea cultivation, harvesting and processing. LIPTON Teas and Infusions is licensing its intellectual property to the Academy for free.

Taisa Hansen, Chief Research & Innovation Officer at LIPTON Teas and Infusions, said: “Combining our experience of tea growing with Cranfield University’s specialist research capabilities will enable us to identify the key innovations that this industry requires. We are moving fast because climate change will not wait. Our profound thanks go to BBSRC and UKTIA as, together, this multi-million-euro project will support the entire tea industry and further our mission to create value for all.”

Professor Leon Terry, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at Cranfield University, said: “The BBSRC grant, the deep technical expertise of our leading scientists and the support of a tea company with the scale and experience of LIPTON Teas and Infusions, will ensure well-informed, first-class research supports a sustainable future for tea.”

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