The soil impact on saffron cultivation
As you may know, saffron bulbs are our main speculation, which grows with reproduction every year. But this won’t happen unless you have chosen the right land for planting the bulbs to increase your resources to the desired amount and avoid the possible damages.
The first question to ask is whether has saffron flower been planted in this land before or not? If yes, how many years ago? It is a significant issue because the saffron bulbs must be living in that soil for 5-7 years.
Although crocus sativus is a plant with low expectations, just like any other plant, it needs organics, minerals, sulfur, potassium, and nitrogen.
It is impossible to detect these substances in water and soil with the unaided eye, examination and investigation are required.
Saffron is an autumnal flowering geophite whose dried stigmas, well known for their aromatic and colouring power, have been used since immemorial time as a spice in human nutrition, for medicinal purposes and as a dye. Many doubts remain on its origin; it was probably selected and domesticated in Crete during the Late Bronze Age. Saffron is an autotriploid geophyte species, self- and out-sterile and mostly male-sterile and therefore unable to produce seed that reproduces by means of corms. Furthermore, it has a reverse biological cycle compared with the cultivation of majority spontaneous plants: flowering first in October-November, then vegetative development until May, which means that the vegetative development is not directly important for production of stigmas, but for the production of new corms. Due to its unique biological, physiological and agronomic traits, saffron is able to exploit marginal land and to be included in low-input cropping systems, representing an alternative viable crop for sustainable agriculture.
But what are the characteristics of suitable soil?
Crocus sativus is considered a species that prefers sandy soils, but in many environments, its cultivation on silt soil or on drained clay soil is possible. The production of stigmas and its volatile compounds mainly depends on mother corm dimension. In the last century, saﬀron cultivation areas changed completely: in European countries, despite an increase in the price of saffron, traditional cultivation areas (Spain, Italy and Greece) underwent a severe reduction. In Spain, saﬀron dropped from 6000 ha in 1971 to 200 ha today.
Furthermore, a detailed overview of the more recent instrumental methods to assess the quality of crocus sativus, strictly from a chemical point of view, will be discussed.
The soil should have neutral acidity, or tend toward alkaline, in the range of 7 to 8 or 9.
It is the best situation for saffron flower cultivation.
EC analysis (soil salinity):
The closer the soil salinity is to zero, the better the soil is. In general, the soil salinity should be below 2000 and not salty at all. It is ideal to have the least salts and electrolytes possible.
The suitable soil for saffron cultivation has 30% of pebbles and clay and 30% of silts. It means that the ratio should be 1 to 3. This condition is the best type of soil for growing crocus sativus, aka loamy-sandy.
The light texture of the soil will increase the growth of saffron bulbs and thus increase the number of saffron flowers, due to the compression and resistance reduction and proper air circulation. Crocus sativus will not grow well in fields that have rubbles, weed, or non-rotten organics.
Plus, saffron is better in soils with calcium or lime and with a better number of organics. Very rich in mineral and organic soils are not suitable for saffron flower agriculture since they will increase vegetative growth compared to reproductive growth, therefore product efficiency will diminish. Weed will compete with the saffron plants for food and light resources and also cause uneasiness when harvesting. Additionally, they host pests and insects. So, take this seriously and don’t forget to weed your farm.
Genetic improvement through molecular plant breeding of saffron is difficult because Crocus sativus is a triploid plant which is incapable of producing seeds.
Read also: The role of saffron in Holi celebration
Which areas are the best for our plant?
Saﬀron is cultivation is possible in very diﬀerent environmental conditions with good results. Many studies have been conducted to increase yield and quality focusing on different traditional management techniques (sowing density, sowing time, corm dimensions, environmental conditions, etc.
Crocus sativus is a subtropical plant and grows well in areas with mild winters and hot and dry summers. A colder environment resulted in higher flower production, but lower quality of stigmas. Moreover, light textured soils, rich in organic matter, deep, well drained and friable, are generally considered to be the best for growing saffron. The quality and consequently the commercial value of saffron is based on the estimation of colouring power, bitter taste and aroma, which are associated with three different molecular features: crocins, picrocrocins, and safranal.
The maximum temperature for this plant is between 35 to 40 degrees Celsius. The Saffron Express team suggests you plant your saffron bulbs at altitudes between 1300 and 2300 meters above sea level. In fact, due to the high price of its stigmas, crocus sativus has been shown to be profitably cultivation in greenhouse.
Do you have any experience of planting saffron flower? We’ll be glad to hear it from you!