The saffron (crocus sativus) belonging to family of Iridaceae is perennial herbaceous plant having height of 25to40cm is the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron is also called Zafaran in Arabic language, koung in Kashmiri language, kesar in hindi and Nepali language and kum-kum in sanskrit language. Saffron plant has flashy bulb called corm or onion which is 3cm in diameter and length and width of leaves is 6-10cm and 2-3 mm respectively. It’s flower is light purple in colour with red or white strip sometimes.
Saffron is popular called “Golden Condiment” in the world because of it’s extreme high cash value and low volume. Saffron contains three active ingredients are (1)Crocin which determines the intensity of the colour,(2)Picrocrocin determines power of flavor and (3)safranal which determines the strength of Aroma. Saffron flower contains 6 purple petals, 3 golden yellow stamens and 1 red pistil.
Iran, India, Afghanistan, Italy, France, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and some parts of China are major saffron producing countries with Iran alone occupying maximum area and contributing about 88%of world saffron production. In Nepal, commercial production of saffron has started in Maijogami village of Ilam district and cost of 1kg saffron upto 10 lakh. Recently cultivation started in Dolpa, upper region of Nepal. Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by central Asian immigrant around 1st century BCE.
Importance of saffron :
● A delicate highly valued spice, with very interesting medicine properties prescribed in homeopathy. ● Saffron provides taste and is powerful dye.
● Powerful antidepressant, Antioxidants.
● Reduces anxiety.
● Helps to weight loss.
● Fights cancer cell and tumor growth.
● Pain reliever and improve digestion.
● Fight respiratory disease.
Some valuable points to be considered while cultivating saffron :
● Saffron grows in many different types of soils but thrives best in calcareous (soil that has calcium carbonate in abundance humus rich and well drained soil with optimum soil ph between 6to8. ● Saffron grows well at an altitude of 2000 meter above sea level. It needs a photo period (sunlight) of 12 hours.
● Climate for saffron cultivation is summer and winter with temperatures ranges from no more than 35 or 40 degrees Celsius in summer to about – 15 or – 20 degree Celsius in winter. It also requires adequate rainfall that is 1000-1500 mm per annum.
● Plough land 3to5 times to depth of about 30 cm in month of May to July.
● Corms must be free from injuries and diseases lesion with diameter of 2.3to3 cm weight about 8g and above ideal for higher saffron production and productivity.
● Selected Corms must be treated with 150g of mancozeb 75 email@example.com%and 50g of carbendazin firstname.lastname@example.org 50 litres of water before planting to control corm rot disease.
● Sowing is done by hand dropping of saffron Corms behind plough after bed formation.
● Application of NPK in the ratio of 90:60:40 kg repestively is recommended for one 1 hectare of areas and full dose of well rotten FYM(10ton/ha).
● Weeding and hoeing are done to destroy weeds as well as to aerate the saffron beds. One light hoeing in September before flowers appear with help of short handed hoe called ZOON.
● Saffron crops requires 10 irrigation and should be sprinkler irrigated at 700meter cube /ha at aninterval of 7 days at sprouting stage and 3 irrigation at post flowering stage at weekly interval.
● The harvesting of saffron flowers starts from 1st week of October and continues till mid November and each flower lives only for 48 hrs that why saffron has such a high value crops.
● Picking of saffron flowers should be done in early morning before their opening.
● Saffron with initial moisture content of 8to10%can be stored at an ambient temperature of 10 degree Celsius in air tight containers safely for 6 months.
● Yields of saffron ranges 2.61-4.3 kg/ha if there is well management cultivation practice done.
Purity Test for saffron:
1).Saffron imparts a yellow colour to water, alcohol, methanol, ether, chloroform but not to xylene and benzene. 2).In sulphuric acid, the saffron stigma immediately becomes blue, gradually changing to deep violet or purple and finally purplish red.
Pest and Diseases control :
Taste and smell of saffron corm is attractive to many animals. So farmers should regularly check their field for any damage.
1)Rodents:such as rats and mice cause damage in saffron fields by digging holes and tunnel in ground and eating corms so in order to control their damage, trap and bait is used.
2) Rabbits:normally eats succulent leaves and flower of saffron. The use of wire net fences has very efficient to control damage.
3)Diseases:viruses infections such as tabacco rattle virus (TRV, a tabravirus) have been observed in ornamental saffron spices in Europe.
Growing medium is one of the most important factors for flower production. The establishment of weather station in main growing areas is necessary. Necessity to educate farmers and help them to enhance yield and productivity by adopting good management practices.
Written by :Rabindra Kumar mahara.