saffron flower; saffron pests and diseases

Saffron Flower; Pests and Diseases

A Saffron farmer has to deal with saffron flower enemies to help the natural, healthy flourish of the saffron flower. Safran’s natural enemies, insects, and mite pests destroy crops, against which farmers use chemical pesticides. The use of pesticides against saffron enemies is a common practice in many regions, but it is not accepted by many European saffron standard requirements. The choice of pesticides is so important, with respect to the international need for environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and compliance with international standards.

With respect to the widespread public discussions about the potential negative effects of saffron enemies to the overall quality of final saffron product, this blog post attracts your attention to the introduction of common saffron pests and diseases.  

Below lines only covers the general and more common pests and diseases that puts the growth of saffron flower at risk:

Common Saffron pests:

Rodents: First, we would like to start with rodents that endanger the life of saffron flowers. Porcupines, mice, moles, rabbits, and voles are the common rodents that tend to feed from saffron leaves and corms. They find saffron leaves and corms as a source of food in winter, mostly damaged between January to February, and under the temperature of 32 F. Normally, the activity of rodents is decreased with the increase of ambient temperature in late March.

To prevent rodent attack, you can take some preventative actions, such as:

  • Laying a piece of chicken wire, or hardware cloth, over the planted area to prevent them from digging
  • Offering alternative food sources for rodents: you can set up a place to provide the required grain, nuts, or corn to deter rodents from your saffron bulbs.
  • There are some folklore solutions claiming to deter rodents, such as hanging Irish spring soap bars in mesh bags, sprinkling cayenne pepper, chili pepper, or crushed red pepper around the soil, and even spreading rodent hair around the planting area.

Mites are other examples of saffron pests. Saffron bulb mites attack saffron corms through wounds and produce tunnels and cavities, in which they start the reproduction activity. Surely, there are ways to prevent mite attack to saffron bulbs. Avoiding summer irrigation, weed control, healthy and uniform corms, use of fungicide-miticide before planting, and planting corms in a depth of 5 inches.

Insects also threaten the health of saffron flowers. The female insect lays 80-100 eggs within plant tissues, which are hatched after 4 days. Insects such as thrips can be identified on saffron leaves as white and yellow spots. To treat thrips, the use of IPM methods is recommended. Blister beetles, from the Meloidae family, are another example of insects that damages the life of saffron flowers.

Now that we know some about the main saffron pests, general explanation of potential saffron diseases follows in below lines: 

Saffron flower diseases

Saffron corms may get involved with various diseases such as:

saffron corm rot

1. Corm rot (dry rot): Different corm rot diseases include: Fusarium moniliforme var. intermedium Neish, Fusarium oxysporium.f.sp. gladioli Schlecht. emend. Snyder & Hansen , F. solani, F. pallidoroseum (Cooke) Sacc, Mucor sp, Rhizoctonia solani J.G. Kühn, Penicillium sp, Phoma crocophila and Macrophomina phaseolina (Tassi) Goidcorm rots: Sclerotium rolfsii (Curzi) C.C. Tu & Kimbr

The saffron corm rot is identified with the primary symptoms of gradual yellowing of leaves, which gradually dry out. When things get severe, discoloration extends to the surface of the corms.

2. Root rot: Sporotrdhum narcissi is a type of fungi that can harm saffron flower.

3. Bulb rot: Sclerotium rolfsii (Curzi) C.C. Tu & Kimbr: Bulb rot is identified by the appearance of brown-to-dark-brown, with irregular patches below corm scales. In severely infected corms, the corm foliage dries up from the tip downward. In the later development stages of the disease mycelia, white fungi appear on the bulbs.

4. Bacterial rot: Bacillus sp: Yellowish leaves and death of the plant can be symptoms of bacterial rot. If not addressed quickly the flowering is reduced by 80%. The bacterial rot corms are wrinkled, and round and produce yellowish pigment.

The bacteria are not removed with the death of the plant, but it still survives

Corm neck rot, saffron smut, Aspergillus niger, Penicillim sp, Cochliolobus sp are other examples of saffron flower diseases.To overcome diseases, farmers must be aware of the symptoms of the plant caused by biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors include bacterial or fungal, viral pathogens, while abiotic factors include nutrient deficiencies, fertilizers, weather issues, abiotic soil problems, or pesticides. To properly diagnose the cause of the problem, laboratory examine and analysis is required. To check the health of saffron flowers, it is best to do a thorough root, leaf, stem, and flower sampling to avoid the growth of unhealthy flowers and the destruction of the whole crop.

Common pest management tips to control the health of saffron flower:

There are some tips to control or prevent the spread of each type of pest or disease. Below, we introduce common pest management tips.

How to prevent the spread of mites in saffron farms:

There are some ways to avoid the spread of mites in saffron farms. To do so:

  • Avoid using sheep and poultry manure (only use weed-free composted cow manure)
  • Avoid summer-time irrigation
  • Plant corms in a depth of 15-20 cm depending on soil texture
  • Do not plant corm that comes from infected areas
treat saffron corm rot

How to treat Corm rots in saffron farms:

Trichoderma viride/harzianum and/or Pseudomonas fluorescens should be applied to treat saffron corms and fields. 

The saffron fields are always in danger of pests and diseases; hence, they should be carefully examined during the planting and growth period of the saffron flower. The farmer should be aware of the potential threats to saffron flowers, as they can ruin the whole crop or affect the quality of their product. Some international saffron traders also pay close attention to this matter; therefore, they require saffron laboratory tests to make sure the products come from a healthy crop.

SunLand, as a saffron producer and exporter, closely monitors the planting and growth process to make sure the final product is healthy. Our saffron laboratory tests can certify the quality of our final products. As saffron buyers, companies can require general/specific lab tests, when placing their order.

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