Kashmir scientists create history; grow saffron in controlled conditions
Srinagar: Scientists in Kashmir have achieved a major breakthrough by cultivating saffron in controlled conditions and in the non-traditional areas.
Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKAUST) introduced in-door cultivation of saffron, which has yielded encouraging results.
At SKUAST’s Advanced Research Station for Saffron and Seeds Spices Pampore, the scientists have conducted new research on saffron by growing the corms in controlled conditions.
Four months after starting the project, the results have been encouraging. Two kilograms of saffron yield were produced in just square 20/20 feet closed room.
“The similar quantity of saffron is being produced by our farmers on 8-10 kanals of land. Through the in-door cultivation technology, farmers can improve their yield of saffron which will be of high quality,” Convener of the project Dr. Bashir Ahmad Illahi told The Kashmir Monitor.
Explaining the process, Dr. Illahi said the saffron through the advanced method can be cultivated in trays in a closed room.
“A farmer would need a need 20/20 room and almost 370 trays to accommodate five quintals of seed. This process involves a multi-tier system as the farming begins in August and then the corm requires 80-90 days of the dark period. In between October 10- 15 flowerings will start and harvesting will begin in November,” he said.
Dr. Illahi said the saffron grown through this technology has shown the high quantity of crocin in the flower as compared to the ones grown via traditional method.
“Quality-wise the saffron grown through this advances method is better because of a long period under the shade with higher crocin concentration,” he said.
Dr. Illahi said the new method can expand the saffron cultivation to other districts of the valley as well.
“It can prove beneficial for the farmers who own a less cultivable land. They can grow saffron either via traditional method or get benefitted by the advanced method,” he said.
The saffron expert said the saffron grown under this method is climate resistant and has no chances of crop failure.
“Since the saffron is grown under closed four walls, the early snowfall or lesser rain won’t impact the crop,” he said.
The saffron expert said they have already demonstrated the advances method to the farmers, who can grow saffron with this method as well.
“The results have been satisfying and the farmers have been already trained by our scientists to cultivate saffron through this technology,” he said.
Last year, Kashmir saffron witnessed a dramatic increase in the yield with production touching 15.133 metric tonnes from 5.2 in 2018.
Around 3,200 hectares of land is under saffron cultivation in Pampore. Around 165 hectares of land is under saffron cultivation in Srinagar. Likewise, 300 hectares of land are under the saffron cultivation Budgam. Kishtwar is the only district in the Jammu division to grow the spice on 50 hectares of land.
Precious like gold and touted as the world’s costliest spice, saffron is used in multiple ways in multiple products ranging from medicine, beauty, color, food, and others. Kashmiri saffron kahwa (tea) is a delicacy that is served on special occasions signifying the importance of the guests. Saffron is used in beauty products and has a high medicinal value. Saffron has also religious significance and Hindus mostly use it to apply tika on their forehead.
Kashmiri saffron, which earlier this year got a Geographic indication tagging is of superior quality because of the higher concentration of crocin, a carotenoid pigment that gives saffron its color and medicinal value: Its crocin content is 8.72% compared to the Iranian variant’s 6.82%, which gives it a darker color and enhanced medicinal value.