Frequently Asked Questions About Saffron Farming

FAQ’s on Saffron Farming / Frequently Asked Questions About Saffron Farming:

If you are planning to cultivate the saffron crop, you must be aware of some common questions about Saffron Cultivation. Here we are presenting most Frequently Asked Questions About Saffron Farming, Cultivation and Planting.

Saffron Plants.
Saffron Plants.
  1. What places are saffron is grown and which country is the largest producer?

Saffron is considered as an autumn flowering plant, perennial in nature. The eastern Mediterranean climate is believed to be the best for growing saffron because this plant descends from that place. Other places which are suitable for saffron cultivation are Eurasia, Iran, Spain, India, and Greece. Iran is considered to be the largest producer of saffron in the world accounting to 94% of the total production?

  1. What climate does saffron grow in?

Saffron needs warm subtropical climate for growth. It needs a minimum of 8-12 hours of sunlight for proper growth and development. The plants do not need shade. They grow well at altitudes 2000 m above sea level. The temperature range for saffron cultivation is 35-40˚C.

  1. How much does saffron sell for in India?

The selling price of saffron depends on the type of saffron being cultivated. Superior varieties are expected to cost high, whereas low-quality saffron is charged less. The average price of saffron is likely found to be around 250-500 per gram.

  1. Where in India is saffron grown?

The major saffron producing state in India is Jammu and Kashmir. Another state where saffron is cultivated is Himachal Pradesh. Overall about 6000 hectares of land produce around 16 thousand kgs of saffron annually in India.

  1. How long does saffron take to grow?

Depending on the variety, saffron plants have a different flowering and growing period. Garden varieties grow in about 6 to 10 weeks time. When farmed, the plants take almost a year to grow and blossom before they can be harvested.

  1. How is saffron harvested?

6-8 weeks after planting the corms, the plants are ready for harvest. It is believed that each corm produces 1 flower with 3 stigmas. The flowers should be picked when they open completely. Harvesting should be done during the mid-day of a bright sunny day. Manual picking is the most common way of harvesting these flowers. All the flowers are collected and piled on a table and then the stigma is removed from the flowers for further processing.

Harvested Saffron.
Harvested Saffron.
  1. How long does saffron last?

Saffron threads have to be dried for storage. If these threads are kept in an airtight container at a consistent temperature and no bright light, then it can be stored indefinitely. Dried saffron is expected to have a shelf life of 3 years, but ground saffron lasts only for about 3-6 months.

  1. Can we grow saffron at home?

Yes, when provided the right conditions for growth it is possible to grow saffron at home. Getting the bulbs for planting is easy, but may cost a little higher. When growing saffron at home in a small garden area, the bulbs should be planted to a depth of 3 to 5 inches with a minimum spacing of 6 inches.

  1. What is the best time to plant saffron bulbs?

In India, corms are planted in the month of June-July or August-September so that they start flowering in October.

  1. What bulb size should be used for planting and what does the size of the bulb indicate?

The size of the bulb indicates the circumference of the bulbs such as bulb size of 9/10 indicates the circumference of the bulb is in between 9-10 cm. The size of the corm used as planting material for the production of saffron is 7-10 cm, whereas the size of the corm used for new corm production is 2-7 cm.

  1. What type of soil is good for saffron cultivation?

Saffron needs well-drained soil with good organic content. Soil with neutral clay content or silty soil is considered good for saffron farming. The pH level of the soil should be around 6 to 8. Too much clay is not needed by the plants and should be improved by adding soil, peat or compost.

  1. How much water is required by saffron plants and how often should they be watered?

Extreme wet soil is not needed for saffron plants. Under irrigated conditions, the plants need 7 lakh liters/hectare distributed over 10 irrigation cycles. Sprinkler irrigation is the most commonly used method for saffron farms.

  1. What is the life span of the saffron crop?

The entire life cycle of the saffron plants can be classified into 5 major stages such as sprouting, flowering, leaf development, development of daughter corms and dormancy. From planting to flowering it takes 30-40 days and continues to flower for 5 or 6 weeks. The leaves of the plant remain green even after the flowering has stopped for about 6 to 8 months during which the new daughter corms are produced. After this, the plant slowly turns yellow and dries out. Therefore, approximately the life span of the plant is about one year.

  1. What is the plant spacing between saffron plants?

The corms or bulbs of the plant are planted at a distance of 25 x 15 cm with 2 corms per hill such that one Hectare of land can accommodate 5 lakhs corms. The spacing between rows in the farm should be around 20 x 10 cm.

  1. How does one plant saffron bulbs?

The following steps can be followed for successful planting:

  • Find a location to receive adequate sunlight in the farm area and prepare the soil.
  • Choose healthy disease free bulbs from previous saffron plants.
  • Plant the bulbs or corms into holes at a depth of 3-4 inches and spaced at 2-3 inches apart.
  • Soak the soil lightly after planting.
  • When flowering starts, it is considered as the harvesting period.
  • After the blooming season is over, leave the foliage in the farm and keep maintaining them.
  • If in case, the leaves turn yellow, then the foliage has to be removed.
  1. What are the diseases of the saffron plant and how can they be controlled?

The most common diseases found in saffron plants are Fusarium wilt, violet root rot, and Rhizoctonia crocorum. Spraying copper-based sprays that are anti-fungal in nature can be used for treating the plants.

  1. Why is saffron so expensive?

The high price of saffron is often related to its delicate and manual harvesting, which is both labor intensive and risky. The stigma being so light can fall off the flower while harvesting, so extreme care is while harvesting and processing the produce. Also, the smell, flavor and other positive attributes make saffron an expensive product.

  1. What part of the plant does saffron grow?

Saffron is the part of the flower; the stigma and style produced in the flower are bright red in color and are generally referred to as saffron after being dried sufficiently. They are a thread like structures which are used for seasoning and coloring. Each flower is expected to have three stigmas or thread-like structures. This is the only commercially useful part of the entire plant.

  1. What are the saffron varieties cultivated in India?

There are three different varieties of saffron exclusively cultivated in India (Kashmir), they are Aquilla saffron (short variety, less red in color, less costly), crème saffron (the cheapest variety with high floral wastage) and Lacha saffron (dark crimson red in color, most expensive, exclusive to Kashmir).

  1. What can be done to help saffron plants flower well around the year?

The following tips can be followed to keep the plants healthy and flowering around the year:

  • Corms should be planted to a depth of 10-15 cm.
  • The planting should be done using mature corms.
  • Never trim the leaves of the plant.
  • Add rich potash feed like a liquid tomato or Rose feed at the end of the flowering season to boost up the flowering in March.
  • Grow the plants in a warm climate, if enough warmth is not available then cover the beds with cloches to keep it warm and nice.
  1. What is the drying process of saffron?

The traditional way of drying saffron involves shade drying for about 27-53 hours, but this way of drying is expected to degrade the crocin content in the saffron. So a better way of drying saffron is to use hot air dryers at a temperature of 40-50˚C for about 4 to 7 hours.

  1. How much fertilizer is required by the saffron farms?

The fertilizer management schedule used for saffron farming is NPK @ 90 kg, 60 kg and 50 kg per hectare respectively. The farm should also be supplied with FYM @ 10 tonnes per hectare and vermicompost @ 25 kg per hectare.

  1. How should the fertilizer be applied to the saffron plants?

The inorganic fertilizers should be applied as a band around the plants. Initially, half the quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, vermicompost and FYM are applied as basal dose after 2nd hoeing for the first crop. Another half dose of nitrogen fertilizer is applied after the onset of flowering.

  1. What is corm rot and how is it treated?

There are many reasons for low corm production, but one of the main reasons for stabilized saffron production is corm rot complex caused because of many soilborne pathogens like Fusarium oxysporum, Rhizoctonia crocorum etc. the disease is identified by the yellowing of leaves, wilting, round spots on the corm, leaf drooping and converting corm into black powdery mass. The disease of corm rot can be managed with chemical fungicides like carbendazim or mancozeb etc. Soil solarisation and other biological methods are also used for treating the soil and corms before planting.

Read: Saffron Project Report.

Read: Thyme Farming.

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