Research Report

Nutrient Availability of Tea Growing Soil Influenced by Different Rates of Dolomite  

Kavitha S.1 , Prapagar  K.1 , Gunarathne G.P.2
1 Faculty of Agriculture, Eastern University, Sri Lanka
2 Tea Research Institute. Talawakella, Sri Lanka
Author    Correspondence author
Journal of Tea Science Research, 2016, Vol. 6, No. 1   doi: 10.5376/jtsr.2016.06.0001
Received: 28 Oct., 2015    Accepted: 18 Dec., 2015    Published: 28 Jan., 2016
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Kavitha S., Prapagar K., and Gunarathne G.P., 2015, Nutrient Availability of Tea Growing Soil Influenced by Different Rates of Dolomite, Journal of Tea Science Research, 5(6), 1-13 (doi: 10.5376/jtsr.2016.06.0001)


Teas (Camellia sinensis L.) exclusively prefer to grow in acid soils but in very acidic nature it is detrimental to the available nutrient content especially Ca, Mg and Mn in soil. Dolomite is soil amendment which used to mitigate the soil acidity and also it provides some essential nutrient Ca and Mg itself. Present investigation was undertaken to identify the effect of different rate of Dolomite on major and micronutrient availability of Tea growing soils of low country wet zone. Field trial was laid out in Randomized Complete Block Design consisting of five treatments in different rate of Dolomite (kg/ha/pruning cycle) namely; T1 (control), T2 (1000), T3 (2000), T4 (3000), and T5 (4000). Soil nutrient content at 0-15cm and 15-30cm of depths were studied. The data generated from the study was analyzed by using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) in SAS statistical package. Treatment means were compared at probability p< 0.05 using LSD. Soil Exchangeable Al, Ca and D.T.P.A extractable Mn were had no effect. But soil available Fe was significantly declined according to the dolomite rate. The highest average mean value of Fe was obtained in control. Highest average means of soil Exchangeable Mg (101.33mg/kg) was observed in highest dolomite applied plots at 0-15cm depth and highest K (130.67mg/kg) was recorded in the treatment with 2000kg/ha/pruning cycle.

Calcium; Dolomite; Iron;Magnesium


Tea plays a major role in the economy of Sri Lanka because it is one of the major foreign exchange earners to the country. It is an acceptable fact that “Ceylon tea” is recognized internationally and renowned worldwide for its quality. Sri Lankan tea has traditionally ranked among the world’s prime-quality teas due t o its strong flavour and aroma (Sector report, 2010). It contributes, 1.3% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Anon, 2011), 16.57% of the total export income and 67.38% of agricultural export earnings (Anon, 2010).


Tea growing areas in Sri Lanka mainly falls in high elevated area. Elevation or altitude is one of the largest local or regional influencers of climate. As one climbs to a higher elevation, temperatures become more variable, rainfall generally becomes higher, but humidity becomes lower. The soil of the main tea growing areas in the country undergo leaching due to rainfall, and hence generally poor in cations such as K, Mg, and Ca .Tea soils are generally rich in aluminum ions (Al3+) and those ions also indirectly cause soil acidity.  A soil suitable for tea growing is moderately acidic with pH ranging of 4.5-5.5 (Zoysa, 2008) any significant deviation from this range could cause difficulties in the uptake of nutrients. The pH is very critical for nursery soil in tea cultivation. The preferable pH range is 4.5-5.5 but best result is obtained near pH 5.0 (Kathiravetpillai and Kulasegaram, 2008).


Dlomitic limestone (CaCO3.MgCO3) is recommended for a tea soil which is provides both calcium and magnesium (Tea Circular 1989). Zoysa (2002) reported that the application of dolomite powder to tea soils is an important agronomic practice. This helps the maintenance of sustainability of tea cultivation in Sri Lanka. The amount of dolomite required to be applied to the soil depends on the soil pH and the buffering ability of the soil. Because most soil can resist pH changes to an appreciable extent when large amounts of materials either acid forming or base forming fertilizers added (Zoysa et al., 2008). Dolomite should be applied to pruning field soon before or after the pruning, while ensuring even distribution on the ground. The beneficial effects of liming are: improvement of soil pH suitable for nutrient availability and absorption, supply of an inexpensive source of magnesium and calcium, reduction of possible toxicity by aluminum and manganese and improvement of soil physical and biological conditions. Iron, aluminum, titanium, manganese, silica, sodium, potassium and organic matter are the usual minor constituents of dolomite (Pathirana, 2000).

In this context this study was carried out to develop dolomite recommendation for the mid country wet zone of Sri Lanka with the specific objective of to study effect of application of dolomite on major and micro nutrient availability of tea growing soils.

2 Materials and Methods
2.1 Description of the Study Area
A field experiment was conducted in 2015 at Rathode tea estate. The site is situated in the mid country wet zone of Sri Lanka at latitude of 7°31'4.44" N and longitude of 80°43'23.87".The experimental site lies at an altitude of about 884 mean sea level. It is characterized by average rainfall of 1250-3150 mm, soils are derived from the colluvial material , well drained and very deep having dark reddish brown, clay loam surface underlain by dark reddish brown, loam surface soils (Mapa.,1999).

2.2 Treatments and Experimental Design
The field experiment was carried out using the tea cultivar TRI 2023 .The Randomized complete Block Design (RCBD) with 3 replicates was used as an experimental design. Field plots were established for five levels of treatments. Rectangular plots of highest length were recommended because of sloppiness of land. Each plot was separated by the gourd row which separated the treated area in order to prevent the treatment effect in any adjacent plots. Each individual plot was marked with 30 bushes.

2.3 Fertilizer Application
Fertilizer was applied to all plots evenly. Nitrogen, K2O and P2O5 applied at the rate of 320, 120 and 35 Kg/ha/year respectively.

2.4 Sampling Procedure
Soil samples from two depth 0-15cm and 15-30cm were collected from the randomly selected places in each plot as a bulk and sub sample was taken from the bulk. During soil sampling dead plant, stones, area near tree and other inert materials were removed. A part of the sub sample was allowed to air dried and passed through the 2mm sieve prior to chemical analysis in order to get homogeneous sample.

2.5 Soil Analytical methods
Soil sample was analyzed at laboratory of soil and plant nutrition Division, Tea Research Institute, St cooms Estate Talawakella. Trace elements iron and manganese were extracted by DTPA and concentration was determined by AAS. Aluminium extracted by KCl and concentration was measured using spectrophotometer at 530 nm wavelength (Bertsch et al., 1981). Exchangeable Ca2+, Mg2+ and K+ were extracted by ammonium chloride (Blackmore et al, 1987). K determined by using flame photometer. Soil Ca and Mg were determined by using AAS.

2.6 Statistical Analysis
Data were subjected to an analysis of variance (ANOVA) to examine the effect of dolomite limestone application on major and micro nutrient availability of tea soil. A statistical analysis was conducted using Statistical Analysis System (SAS) window version 9.1 and Microsoft Excel 2007 package. The least significance difference (LSD) test was used to separate significantly differing treatment means after main effects were found significant at P < 0.05.

Table 1 Treatments


3 Result and Discussion

3.1 Effect of application of Dolomite on major Nutrient content of Tea soil

The effect of different rate of dolomite on soil Ca, Mg and K are shown in the Table 2 respectively. Different rate dolomite did not affect significantly on availability of Ca in both depths.



Table 2 Effect of application of different rate of dolomite on soil Exchangeable Ca, Mg and K at 0-15cm and 15-30 cm



Figure 1 Major nutrient content at 0-150 cm depth



Figure 2 Major nutrient content at 15-30 cm depth


3.1.1 Exchangeable Calcium

Ca is the major element present in dolomite which mitigating the soil pH. That displaces the H+ and Al ions present in soil exchangeable sites. Also the soil of an experiment area has considerable buffering capacity and the pH also not significant. According to that this results obviously report that Ca2+ neutralized soil acidity and had no effect on available Ca on soil.

3.1.2. Exchangeable Magnesium
At 0-15cm depth Mg concentration had significant difference. Application of 4000kg dolomite/ha/pruning cycle had highest Mg concentration compare to dolomite rate of 3000 and plot without dolomite (Control). Plot with 1000, 2000 kg/ha/pruning cycle dolomite had no effect. Dolomite provides Mg itself and Mg also responsible for the arrest the soil pH.  As application of lime had high Mg saturation in soil was found by Athanase et al., (2013). Mg released by applied fertilizer is a may be a reason for high Mg in control plot. Mg content at 15-30cm had no effect. Increasing trend of soil exchangeable Mg was found by Krishnapillai et al (1992) in study with incubation of different rate of dolomite with different soil type. They reported soon after incubation Mg increased in all type of soil with increasing rate of dolomite and there was no change in Mg with time period.

3.1.3 Exchangeable Potassium
There was no change in K content at 0-15cm depth. But considerable change was observed in concentration of K at 15-30cm depth. Highest concentration of K was observed in 1000kg/ha/pruning cycle applied plots. Dolomite rate of 2000, 4000, control plots did not show any significant effect. Lowest K concentration was found in dolomite rate of 3000 kg/ha/pruning cycle.  Kovacevic and Rastija (2010) have shown that liming did not affect potassium availability on acid soil But Matale, soil series showed higher base saturation than the other soils and also CEC of these soil also very high (10-20 cmolc kg-1) (Jayalath et al., 1998). Because of this habit of soil there was no effect on Exchangeable cations in soil. Krishnapillai et al., (1992) reported that the exchangeable K+ had no variation with increasing rates of dolomite application. Similar findings reported by Jensen (1972) and Udo (1978).

3.2 Effect of application of Dolomite on Trace element content of Tea soil
3.2.1 Soil Exchangeable Aluminium (Al)
According to results obtained from this study, significant effect on soil exchangeable Al was not observed. But there was a reducing trend was observed when increasing rate of dolomite at 0-15cm depth (Table 3) and there was no considerable change at 15-30cm soil depth.


Many soil scientists showed that decreasing pH decreased Exchangeable Al concentration in soil.  Pathirana,(2000) observed significant reduction of Exchangeable Al by application of dolomite in acid tea soil. There are many reports about the beneficial Ca effects on the amelioration of Al-toxicity in different crops growing in acid soils (Mora et al., 1999; Mora et al., 2002). Other studies have shown that soil pH increases after the application of Ca amendments due to the displacement of Al3+ and H+ by Ca2+ from the exchange sites into the solution (Alva and Sumner, 1988; Mora et al., 1999). 



Figure 3 Al (mg/kg) deviation at different depth


3.3 D.T.P.A Extractable Mn and Fe in soil



Table 3 Effect of application of different rate of dolomite on trace elements in soil


The experimental data available do not furnish evidence that the application of different date of dolomite on the availability of D.T.P.A extractable Mn at both depths (Table 3), while lowest value was recorded in dolomite rate of 4000 kg/ha/pruning cycle.



Figure 4 Fe (mg/kg) deviation at different depth



Figure 5 Mn (mg/kg) deviation at different depth



Figure 6 Overall available trace nutrients in soil


Soil available Fe also did not show significant variation between the treatment in 0-15cm depth but the significant different was observed in 15-30 cm soil depth. Lower Fe concentration was observed in dolomite applied plots than control which had high available Fe in soil.



This study shows the advantage of incorporating dolomite which helps to supply the soil with adequate quantities of available magnesium and at the same time to reduce the concentration of aluminium and to eliminate possible toxic effects of aluminium, manganese and iron in tea soils. Although it was observed that the soil exchangeable K did not show much variation with increasing rates of dolomite application.



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Anon, 2011, Annual report. Central Bank of Sri Lanka

Athanase N., Vicky R., Jayne N. M., and Athanase C. R., 2013, Effects of Unburned Lime on Soil pH and Base Cations in Acidic Soil. Research Article ISRN Soil Science .Article ID 707569,

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Udo E.J., 1971 Thermodynamics of Potassium - Calcium and Magnesium - Calcium exchange reactions on a Kaolinitic soil clay, Soil Sci.Soc. Amer J, 42: 556-56

Zoysa  A.K.N., Anandacoomaraswamy A., and De Silva M.S.D.L., 2008, Management of soil Fertility in tea lands: In handbook on tea, Tea research institute of Sri Lanka, pp 27-33

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