Dec , 2021, Volume : 2 Article : 10

Introduction of Saffron in Higher Hills of Himalayan Region of Uttarakhand for Higher Returns

Author : Tarun Uniyal, Vishwas Maheshwari and Pankaj Nautiyal


Saffron is an important cash crop of Kashmir valley and it has practical domination of saffron cultivation in India as a valuable industrial/medicinal product, but since last few years the productivity and exports of this crop have shown a descending trend with an increase in overall demand of this crop. Here the authors have reviewed the available literature with respect to current practices followed throughout the production and trade of saffron in the Kashmir valley and also the intervention programs being performed at various locations in the state of Uttarakhand to establish saffron as a commercial crop in the state and thus, increasing monetary gains of the farmers.

Keywords: Saffron, higher hills, cultivation, cash crop, organized marketing, picrocrocin, saffranal


Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) is an economically important medicinal and aromatic cash crop. Popularly known as the “Golden Condiment”, it is the world’s most expensive spice crop and its price varies from 1,500 to 2,200 Euro/kg (Mykhailenko et al., 2020).  Saffron grows from sea level to an altitude of almost 2000 m, even though it is more acclimatized to regions having altitudes between 600 and 1700 m (Delgado et al., 2006).

It is a triploid plant and is propagated through corms (Bayat et al., 2016). 225–300 stigma threads are obtained from 75–100 flowers of saffron, which ultimately produce only 0.5 g of dry stigma (Gohari et al., 2013). Nowadays, saffron cultivation is rapidly gaining interest because of its major uses in industries such as the textile, dye, drug, culinary, colouring, and flavouring industries. Moreover, it contains medicinal properties, viz., antioxidant, antitumor activity, anticancer, and antimutagenic activity (Moradi et al., 2019; Mykhailenko et al., 2020).

Saffron (Crocus sativus Kashmirianus), traditionally known as golden spice is mainly associated with the Kashmir valley of India and occupies around 4% of the total cultivated area of the valley and delivers approximately 16% of aggregate agricultural income (Anonymous, 2008). Kashmir has practical domination of saffron cultivation in India as a valuable industrial/medicinal product and provides a lot to its agricultural economy owing to its superior quality in the world due to its rich colour and flavour and has been linked with the well-known Kashmiri Cuisine (Banarjee, 2009; Chand, 2005).

Composition of Saffron

Saffron is appraised for its colour, taste and aroma. The compounds that provide these properties are what define its quality. Saffron primarily has chemical constituents such as crocin, picrocrocin and saffranal which provide its colour, flavour and aroma, respectively (Sampathu et al., 1984). Other minor carotenoides include alpha and beta carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin and conjugated xanthocarotenoid. The typical bitter taste of saffron is due to the presence of glycoside named picrocrocin whose structure was given by Khun and Winterstein (1934). Picrocrocin is a precursor of safranal, the major compound in saffron aroma. Saffron is also a rich source of vitamins, proteins, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, sodium and manganese giving it antioxidant properties. This attribute authenticates the status of saffron as a functional food (Nehvi et al., 2011a).


                `Kum Kum’ and ‘Kaserin Sanskrit and ‘Kung’ are some names of saffron in Kashmiri language (Amjad et al., 2010). There saffron is cultivated in uplands (termed in the local dialect as `Karewas`), under temperate climatic conditions at heights of 1585 to 1677 m above mean sea level (AMSL). These regions have well drained and calcareous soils.

They have silty clay loam textures with electrical conductivity ranging from 0.09 to 0.30 dS m1, pH ranging between 6.3 and 8.3, calcium carbonate content of 4.61% and average organic carbon of 0.35% (Ganaie and Singh, 2019). Higher yields have been linked with higher pH values (Shinde et al., 1984).


The state agriculture department picked Almora as its climate is ideal for saffron cultivation. On a trial basis, saffron was cultivated in Tarikhet, Hawalbagh and Lamgara blocks of Almora. After the success of the trials saffron will now be introduces to all 11 blocks of the district (Times of India, 2021). Saffron bulbs are being procured in huge numbers from Kashmir. Depending on the produce, the product can be exported to neighbouring states and even to foreign countries.


After Almora, saffron production plan has been successful in Harshil valley of Uttarkashi district. For trial, saffron seeds were provided free of cost to the cultivators of five villages of the valley. Most of these seeds have germinated and flowers have blossomed on them. The Harshil valley of the marginal district is known for the production of juicy apples and kidney beans. Due to the favourable weather and soil of the valley for the cultivation of saffron, Krishi Vigyan Kendra had given saffron seeds to the farmers as the first trial in the year 2018-19 with the collaboration of Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur. It showed positive results and in view of this, the District Administration and Horticulture Department had given saffron seeds to about 38 farmers of Sukki, Jhala, Mukhba, Purali and Jaspur villages of the valley from the District Plan 2021-22 (Times of India, 2021). Farmers prepared beds and sowed them in the fields. Within a month and a half, flowers started blooming on them. Good quality seed was given to the cultivators. Due to this, flowers have started coming on it in one to one and a half months. Production is low now. In future it will be helpful in the livelihood promotion of the farmers and increasing their income. Cultivation of saffron alongside apple will prove to be economically fruitful for farmers. By scientifically incorporating the cultivation of saffron along with apples in apple orchards farmers can avail additional income of Rs 2.5-3 Lakhs per hectare.  100-120 gm of saffron can be successfully cultivated from 1 Nali (200 m2) of land (Nautiyal, et al., 2020).

Saffron was cultivated in nearly a 2,000 square feet land and reaped nearly 120 gram of high quality Kesar, which is worth Rs 20,000. Sukki, Jaspur, Purali, and other villages of Uttarkashi have conducive climatic conditions for the cultivation of saffron as they are located at an altitude of 1,800-2,200 metre above sea level and also receive optimum sunlight (Times of India, 2021). Farmers of similar other high-altitude areas can also cultivate saffron. However, lack of proper climatic conditions may affect the quantity and quality of crops as was witnessed during the trials in Jhala village of Uttarkashi district.

Trial at KVK Chinyalisaur

Krishi Vigyan Kendra Uttarkashi also held small on campus trials for saffron germination and flowering which have been successful and flowering has been obtained which further authenticates the introduction of saffron cultivation to the farmers of the region to upgrade their lifestyle and for increasing their gains. The corms were procured from Kashmir.


To meet the increasing demands of saffron, attempts should be made to cultivate saffron in suitable regions of hill states like Uttarakhand by conducting further studies into the factors affecting the quality and other parameters such as picrocrocin, saffranal content, etc. The strategies of production and export techniques are believed to be key to the success of saffron trade, so it is vital to adopt a universal perspective throughout for all the facets related to its production and export issues. This may have an enormous impact on farmer’s financial gain and can lead to setting up of Uttarakhand saffron as a brand.

Hence adoption of possible system for commercial production of corm can guarantee mass scale corm production and better economic gains per unit area of saffron. These successful interventions by the govt. authorities prove highly beneficial for the farmers for increasing their monetary gains.

At last, further research work should be done on multiple sites in the same geographical locations accumulating other factors that influence the quality of saffron production with altitude. Moreover, for each respective location, studies should be undertaken for the effect of saffron quality and correlate it with the meteorological data.



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  1. 01 May,2024
    Pankaj nayal

    I`ve lot of barren land in Almora, need guidance how I can use that land for saffron cultivation and is there any government backed funding programs for that.