Connecting FARM to CAMPUS

Identifying challenges, opportunities and strategies for sustainable farming and profitable marketing of saffron

AGRI-TECH

DR F. A. LONE/DR F.A. NEHVI

History of saffron (Crocus sativus ) cultivation in Kashmir dates back to 500 BC and is believed to be brought to India from Persian rulers. Some historians believe that saffron originated in an area extending from  Greece, Turkey, Iran and Central Asia. Saffron as a spice derived from the dried stigmas of the flowers and has remained among the world’s most costly substance. It is one of the most commercially important commodity of the State  agriculture and J&K enjoys the status of  being the only saffron producing State in India. With its bitter taste, hay-like fragrance and bitterness imparted by pigments like crocin, saffranal and picrocrocin, saffron has been used as a seasoning, fragrance dye and medicine. The greatest saffron producing countries in the world are Iran, Spain ,India and Greece. The largest saffron importers are Germany, Italy, USA, Switzerland, UK and France.
In Jammu and Kashmir State saffron is mainly cultivated in Pampore area of  district Pulwama. However, in some pockets it is also being cultivated in district Budgam and Doda. The land under cultivation of saffron is 3700 ha (apxm) (compared to more than 5000 ha in 1990’s) with the maximum productivity level of 2.5 kg /ha much lower than countries like Iran, Spain, Italy and Turkey which harvest 4-6 Kg/ha. Its active growth starts in August- September, flowers in October and its foliage remains green till April. The sprouting of corms and its vegetative propagation takes place in winter. The major environmental factors that govern the productivity of the saffron are temperature, availability of water, fertilizer dose and corm health  and any major deviation in these factors can lead to suppression of growth and subsequently its productivity and quality.
The main challenges of saffron cultivation in Kashmir are climate change, non-scientific cultivation practices, less availability of irrigation  water during critical period of growth (Aug-Oct), corm rot and associated diseases, corm grading, maintenance of soil health (nutritional and microbial),post harvest handling  and dwindling area  due to fast urbanisation. To overcome these issues SKUAST-K through a series of on-farm experiments/trials has developed package of practices for increasing the productivity level up to 4-5 kg/ha. The university has also developed indigenous Hot Air /Solar Dryers which ensure high quality saffron and at the same time reduces the drying time from 50 hours to 3 to 4 hours.  To make the saffron growing in the State sustainable and to facilitate transfer of technologies to farmers and to overcome bottle necks in various R&D activities SKUAST-K has established Saffron Research Centre at Pampore. This centre of excellence is quite actively imparting on farm training to farmers for achieving targets for remunerative livelihood opportunities and is regularly issuing agro-advisories and weather updates to the farmers.  In addition to the efforts rendered by the  University, The National Mission on Saffron  started a few years back presently under the aegis of the Sate government also envisages issues like providing incentives to farmers for rejuvenating their fields viz; supplying of 75% of the cost of agriculture inputs in the shape of inorganic fertilizers, fungicides, rodenticides and manure, strengthening the irrigation system  for supply of water during the critical period by establishing  tube well and sprinkle sets  in saffron growing areas on subsidized rates, standardization of quality corm production in public nurseries and by  involving farmers fields, infrastructure development and incorporation of electronic technology for  quality testing and marketing,  improvement in post harvest technologies involving grading, packing and branding and replanting of existing saffron area for improving productivity and  improvement in soil health.
To have detailed deliberations on these issues and to make saffron farming more scientific and  marketable SKUAST-K hosted a mega event by organizing 4th International  Saffron Symposium  on Advances in Saffron Biology, Technology and Trade from 22-25th Oct. 2012 in which scientists from Iran, Spain Italy, Azerbhiajan, Greece, Afganistan, Egypt and some eminent scientists and dignitaries  from various parts of the country  deliberated on some common issues  confronting the saffron farming in the region ranging from scientific inputs to its profitable trade in the  national and international markets and other related issues. The four day symposium aimed at discussing about 143 research papers by the scientists across the world and visit to the farmers fields. The main themes to be covered in the symposium were evolution and diversity of saffron and its allies, advances in biology and biotechnology of saffron, opportunities and innovations after harnessing saffron productivity and profitability and  advances in medicinal industrial application of saffron. Besides the scientific presentations an exhibition was also held wherein machinery/tools and the saffron products were displayed for the information of the farmers and for those interested in saffron trade. The mega event hosted by SKUAST-K looked forward for a meaningful out come with some concrete recommendations for the sustainability of this prized crop and strategies for overcoming the current hot issues like climate change, integrated nutrient, pest/disease management, soil health, modern post harvest technologies and  its marketing.

¬¬¬Authors teach at SKUAST-K Shalimar Campus. Feedback at rfarooqlone@yahoo.co.in

Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 1 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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