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How the world’s most expensive spice Saffron can be grown at home?

BusinessHow the world's most expensive spice Saffron can be grown at home?

To earn five lakh rupees in a season, you need saffron seeds, an empty room, a few racks and some plastic containers.

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This is said by Rashid Khan, a computer engineer living in Pakharpura village of Budgam in Indian-administered Kashmir. Saffron cultivation is not Rashid’s family occupation, nor is Pakharpura’s land suitable for him.

Saffron is used in milk and coffee and is also used in cosmetic products and many medicines. But over the past several years, the production of saffron here has drastically decreased and most of the farmers’ fields have become barren.

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In Indian-administered Kashmir, saffron cultivation takes place on the slopes of Pampur town in Pulwama. Seeing the decline of saffron, which is called the most expensive spice in the world, Rashid Khan successfully experimented with its cultivation in a room of his house.

‘I used to hear on TV and read in newspapers every day that the saffron industry is dying. I thought about it and contacted the experts at the Agriculture University here. We bought the seeds and put them in the room, today you see that the saffron crop is ready.’

Rashid says that indoor saffron cultivation can be an excellent additional income and does not require large farms.

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‘It doesn’t even take any effort. Only the temperature has to be taken care of and if the humidity drops, it can be leveled by spraying water on the wall. Money also comes and there is satisfaction that our most important crop will not be lost.’

‘Now we will do large-scale greenhouse farming’

The family of Abdul Majeed, a resident of Pampur, has been cultivating saffron for three centuries. But due to climate change and pollution over the past few years, the saffron fields have lost their luster.

According to officials, a 60 percent decline in saffron production was recorded during the last two decades. Majeed himself now grows saffron indoors through ‘indoor farming’ and is encouraging other farmers to do the same.

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He says, ‘We tried indoor farming because the weather was difficult. But earlier in this experiment many times the seeds of millions of rupees were damaged.

“Then we contacted experts from the University of Agriculture, they trained us and helped us. Now any farmer can grow up to two kilos of saffron in his room, which will cost up to six lakh rupees.

Abdul Majeed says that he is in touch with some Indian companies.

‘We are talking. We will provide the land and they will build large greenhouses. Then whatever the weather, the crop will not be affected. It will take some time, but till then, farmers can cultivate at home as well.’

As autumn sets in, the fields of Pampore spring, with saffron blossoms waving everywhere making for a charming sight. But these fields are no longer thriving, as climate change has resulted in fewer harvests.

Professor Bashir Ahmed Elahi of the University of Agriculture says that ‘we are not ending the cultivation of saffron in the fields. However, we have identified a way to deal with climate change, and farmers are successfully farming indoors.

They say that the saffron seed (corm) yields crops for many years, but after breaking the saffron flower, it has to be put back in the ground so that it can be harvested again the next year.

‘Now we are going to do another experiment, in which we can grow and save seeds through indoor farming. If it succeeds, then the land will be unrolled, and anyone will be able to grow saffron in their living room.’

Professor Bashir says agricultural scientists from many states of India are coming here to research the possibilities of indoor farming.

But a climate like Kashmir is not possible everywhere. If this is to be done in Mumbai or Delhi, different devices will have to be installed to control the temperature of the room. [..]

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