India’s Purple Revolution For Northeast Farmers
The "Purple Revolution" is not just about producing a valuable spice; it is about empowering farmers, promoting sustainable practices, and driving economic growth in the Northeast.
Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, is acclaimed for its numerous health benefits and its applications in the textile and cosmetic industry. However, the demand for saffron has been surpassing its production capacity, creating a gap in the market. Northeast Farmers can avail the opportunity.
To bridge this gap, efforts are being made to explore alternate strategies for upscaling saffron production in India. One such initiative is the “Mission Saffron” project led by the Northeast Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous organization under the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
NECTAR, in collaboration with state government departments, has identified suitable sites for saffron cultivation in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Sikkim. These sites were selected based on their similarity to the geographical and climatic parameters of the Pampore region in Kashmir, which is known for its high-quality saffron production. Geospatial techniques were utilized to ensure accurate site selection, resulting in the successful cultivation of saffron flowers in these four states.
During the pilot cultivation period in 2021-22, NECTAR assessed 15 cultivation sites across the four northeastern states. The assessment included factors such as flowering yield, corm survival rate, multiplication of daughter corms, and soil profiling. Based on the results, the cultivation sites were categorized into three groups: high potential, medium potential, and low potential. The high potential sites exhibited a flowering rate of greater than 50%, along with a satisfactory corm survival and multiplication rate. The medium potential sites showed moderate results, while the low potential sites had a lower flowering rate and no multiplication of daughter corms.
The positive results from the pilot cultivation motivated NECTAR to expand the project on a larger scale for the year 2023-24. Currently, large-scale cultivation is ongoing in Menchukha (Arunachal Pradesh) and Yuksom (Sikkim), with approximately 10 quintals of saffron corms being planted at each site. Additionally, the pilot cultivation in the medium potential sites is being continued to further validate their suitability for saffron cultivation. NECTAR conducted an awareness cum farmers mobilization program to educate the farmers about the importance of saffron and the best practices for cultivation.
As a result of NECTAR’s saffron cultivation project, a total of 64 farmers from Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya are now benefitting from the project. The cultivation steps have been modified according to the specific climatic conditions and soil types of each cultivation site. Saffron corms were sown between the last week of September and the first week of October, and soon after, beautiful purple flowers started blooming in all the fields. As of the first week of November, over 37,000 flowers were seen blooming, and it is expected that at least 200 grams of dried saffron will be harvested from the region this season.
The success of the saffron cultivation project is a result of collaboration between NECTAR and various partners, including state government departments, rural livelihood missions, and horticulture directorates. These collaborations have not only brought about opportunities for livelihood generation for farmers in the Northeast, but they have also paved the way for the establishment of a new brand of saffron from the region.
Moving forward, NECTAR is planning to expand saffron cultivation in the Northeast by assessing the physico-chemical and microbial properties of the soil to ensure its suitability for saffron cultivation. The organization is also exploring research and development opportunities related to saffron and its byproducts.
The success of the saffron cultivation project in the Northeast is a testament to India’s excellence in agricultural innovation. Through initiatives like “Mission Saffron,” the country is not only meeting the growing demand for saffron but also empowering farmers in the region to benefit from this lucrative crop. The purple revolution in saffron cultivation is bringing new opportunities and economic growth to the Northeastern states, while also contributing to the overall development of the Indian agricultural sector.
The success of the saffron cultivation project in the Northeast is just the beginning of a larger “Purple Revolution” in the region. NECTAR, along with its partners, is determined to bring more areas and farmers under saffron cultivation. The organization plans to conduct comprehensive physico-chemical and microbial assessments of the soil to ensure its suitability for saffron cultivation. By understanding the unique soil properties of each cultivation site, NECTAR aims to optimize saffron production and establish a distinct brand of saffron from the Northeast.
In addition to expanding saffron cultivation, NECTAR is exploring various opportunities for research and development related to saffron and its byproducts. This includes studying the therapeutic properties of saffron compounds like crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal, and their potential applications in medicine and healthcare. NECTAR aims to unlock the full potential of saffron, not only as a high-value spice but also as a source of valuable bioactive compounds with numerous health benefits.
By harnessing the power of geospatial techniques and collaboration with state governments and local organizations, NECTAR has brought about a remarkable transformation in the region’s agricultural landscape. The cultivation of saffron not only offers a lucrative opportunity for farmers but also contributes to the overall development of the Indian agricultural sector.
The “Purple Revolution” in saffron cultivation is not limited to economic benefits. It also has various environmental and social advantages. Saffron cultivation requires minimal water and has a low carbon footprint, making it an environmentally sustainable crop. Additionally, the project has generated employment opportunities for local communities and has the potential to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the region.
As the saffron industry in the Northeast continues to grow, it is expected to attract attention from both domestic and international markets. The region’s unique climatic conditions and soil composition provide an ideal environment for producing high-quality saffron. With proper branding and marketing strategies, the Northeast has the potential to establish itself as a leading saffron-producing region, further enhancing India’s reputation in the global spice market.
The “Purple Revolution” is not just about the cultivation of saffron; it is about transforming the agricultural landscape of the Northeast, empowering farmers, and creating sustainable livelihoods. NECTAR’s pioneering efforts in saffron cultivation serve as a model for other regions in India to explore alternative crops and strategies for agricultural development. The success of this project showcases the potential of scientific research, technology application, and collaboration to revolutionize traditional farming practices and open up new avenues for economic growth.
As the “Purple Revolution” gains momentum, it is expected that more farmers in the Northeast will embrace saffron cultivation as a viable and lucrative option. This will not only boost the region’s economy but also provide opportunities for job creation and skill development. Moreover, the cultivation of saffron can contribute to biodiversity conservation by promoting sustainable land use practices and preserving native flora and fauna.
The government and various stakeholders need to continue supporting initiatives like “Mission Saffron” to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of saffron cultivation in the Northeast. This includes providing farmers with technical assistance, access to quality inputs, and market linkages. Additionally, research and development efforts should focus on improving saffron cultivation techniques, enhancing yield and quality, and exploring new applications for saffron byproducts.
Overall, the “Purple Revolution” in saffron cultivation not only has the potential to transform the agricultural landscape of the Northeast but also empower farmers, promote sustainable practices, and drive economic growth in the region. By embracing saffron cultivation and utilizing scientific research and technology, India can position itself as a global leader in saffron production while also benefiting the farmers and the overall development of the agricultural sector.
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