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NCL scientists grow saffron in greenhouse
Anjali Marar | Saturday, 7 January 2017 AT 01:01 PM IST
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Science makes miracles: The saffron grown in a specialised greenhouse by scientists from NCL

If saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world, was considered to be cultivated only in the valleys of Kashmir, a group of scientists from the city have busted this myth and have successfully grown the priceless spice in a specialised greenhouse set up.

A team of scientists at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), led by senior biochemical scientist CK John, managed to recreate the soil, environment, and provide suitable temperature conditions conducive for the growth of saffron.

Not only so, these experts are now looking out for areas and regions outside Kashmir, where natural cold weather could aid the cultivation of saffron.

“The main aim of this research was to test whether saffron could be grown outside Kashmir,” John told Sakal Times.

To achieve this objective, the team initially undertook a detailed study of the Kashmiri soil, including an understanding the biological and chemical compositions, and its characteristics, only after which they got on to the task of recreating a similar set up in Pune.

The most challenging part of the whole cultivation process, according to the team, was to make it as cost effective as possible, which was done by avoiding the use of any air conditioners or fan-pads.

“While a traditional greenhouse set up uses AC and fan-pads for cooling, we laid a brick base and smeared brick powder around the house, which facilitated the natural processes of cooling,” John said.

By doing so, the scientists addressed two issues. the first being not incurring any charges on electricity and also not disturbing the plant growth in case of a power failure, which could have otherwise killed the plants.

Experts would water saffron plants using ice cold water, imitating the naturally melted snow in the northern plains of Kashmir.

There is no doubt that saffron will fetch a high price to farmers who would cultivate the spice, there are certain temperature and other natural requirements that the scientists suggest have to be fulfilled.

Of these, warm places have been completely ruled out for the cultivation of the precious spice.

Saffron cultivation happens between the autumn and winter seasons, the places where the minimum temperature can range between 8 to 10 degree Celsius would be ideal, said John.

After sowing, the saffron would flower in about 30 to 40 days. Some of the ideal places for saffron cultivation in Maharashtra include Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani etc.

Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough (pertussis), and to loosen phlegm (as an expectorant). Saffron is also known to be helpful for healthy skin, hair and overall health.

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