Farmers in China’s tea-growing regions report that monsoon dynamics and other weather factors are changing and that this is affecting tea harvest decisions. To assess the effect of climate change on tea production in China, this study uses historical weather and production data from 1980 to 2011 to construct a yield response model that estimates the partial effect of weather factors on tea yields in China, with a specific focus on East Asian Monsoon dynamics. Tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) Kunze
) has not been studied using these methods even though it is an important crop for human nutrition and the economic well-being of rural communities in many countries. Previous studies have approximated the monsoon period using historical average onset and retreat dates, which we believe limits our understanding of how changing monsoon patterns affect crop productivity. In our analysis, we instead estimate the monsoon season across China’s tea growing regions empirically by identifying the unknown breakpoints in the year-by-province cumulative precipitation. We find that a 1% increase in the monsoon retreat date is associated with 0.481%–0.535% reduction in tea yield. In the previous year, we also find that a 1% increase in the date of the monsoon retreat is associated with a 0.604% decrease in tea yields. For precipitation, we find that a 1% increase in average daily precipitation occurring during the monsoon period is associated with a 0.184%–0.262% reduction in tea yields. In addition, our models show that 1% increase in the average daily monsoon precipitation from the previous growing season is associated with 0.258%–0.327% decline in yields. We also find that a 1% decrease in solar radiation in the previous growing season is associated with 0.554%-0.864% decrease in tea yields. These findings suggest the need for adaptive management and harvesting strategies given climate change projections and the known negative association between excess rainfall and delayed monsoon retreat on tea quality and yield.
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