Grant-funded Projects

FDACS Project

Establishing a Tea Industry in Florida: Cultivar and Disease Assessment

This project was funded by a 2015 FDACS Specialty Crop block grant (FDACS #022918). The project goals were to test some of the most readily available tea varieties in the southeastern US for performance under Florida growing conditions, to document any disease problems that occurred, and to determine which varieties may have better heat tolerance and disease resistance than others. As of the end of the grant period, ‘Big leaf’/ ‘Large leaf,’ ‘Fairhope,’ and ‘China’ had the best survival; ‘Fairhope,’ ‘Georgia,’ and ‘Big leaf’/ ‘Large leaf’ had the highest yields; and ‘Big leaf’/ ‘Large leaf’ and ‘Fairhope’ showed the greatest field resistance to anthracnose. These results cover only the first two years (establishment period) in the field; we hope to continue collecting data on these plants, using donated funds to cover the costs of plot maintenance.


Establishing a Tea Industry in Florida: Tea Quality

Caffeine and phenolics are compounds in tea that are associated with tea quality. Research suggests that polyphenolic compounds in green tea are also excellent antioxidants and hence are health promoting. We are using phytochemical methods to measure the levels of health promoting polyphenolic compounds and caffeine in tea grown in Florida. We aim to identify varieties and growing conditions that best maximize the compounds of interest in tea leaves which are suitable for producing excellent quality tea. This project is partially supported by the above FDACS Specialty Crop block grant.

Shade and Ground Cover Growing Systems for Tea Production in Florida

This project was funded by a 2018 USDA Southern SARE grant (SARE #LS18-297). The project explores companion cover and shade crops for tea production, examining impacts on tea growth and yield, weed suppression, water use, soil nutrient cycling, and disease incidence. Additionally, this grant is providing funds to plant some of the best-performing varieties from the FDACS project at multiple sites along a North-South gradient, covering a range of potential tea-growing areas within Florida.

Other Projects

Tea Endophytes

Tea Endophytes

This project was initiated by undergraduate research interns, and examines fungal endophytes of tea. The students have identified multiple commonly-occurring fungi in Florida tea leaves, some of which have demonstrated potential in biocontrol against the anthracnose pathogen.

Tea Propogation

Tea Propagation

Undergrad researchers are working on basic questions about vegetative propagation of US tea varieties, documenting variations in success rates for cuttings among the available stocks, and fine-tuning procedures for tissue culture propagation.