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Roshan Rajadurai | Pic by Ravindra Dharmathilake

The ban on the controversial Glyphosate has prompted the Tea Research Institute (TRI) to step up research activities to find alternate chemicals that could be used as weedicides by the Tea sector.

The Government of Sri Lanka banned the chemical recently since it was largely believed that the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu) was caused by the usage of the chemical.

However, the tea industry opposed the ban stating that it would affect them since it was used as an effective weedicide.

Director, TRI, Dr. I.S.B. Abeysinghe speaking to The Nation Gain stated that they had listed a few chemicals that could be used instead of Glyphosate. “Once we decide on a chemical, we hope to get it approved and include it in our integrated weed management program,” Dr. Abeysinghe said.

However, the TRI has identified one particular chemical, Glufosinate Ammonium, which could be used as the most suitable substitute for glyphosate.

“There are pre-emergent weed killers and post-emergent weed killers. But glyphosate is a complete killer, and so is glufosinate ammonium,” he stated.

However, he said the substitute was expensive when compared to glyphosate. “We are looking at how we can use this chemical at an affordable rate,” Dr. Abeysinghe added. “We haven’t finalized on any chemical yet. We will conduct further research on this, but we would focus on glufosinate ammonium since it is the most appropriate substitute,” he added.

In addition, the officials also said that they were looking at possibilities of obtaining the substituted chemicals at subsidized rates.

Meanwhile, the tea industry earlier said they would incur further losses due to the ban. The Planters’ Association of Ceylon said that the ban would hurt the industry further since it was facing one of the longest period of decline owing to adverse situations prevalent in countries which purchase Sri Lanka’s tea.

“This process of removing weeds can be done manually. But that is expensive. For example, if using glyphosate costs us Rs.5,000, doing it manually would cost us Rs.25,000. That is the rough estimate,” said Chairman Tea Planters’ Association, Roshan Rajadurai.