Why saffron production rate decreased in 2023-2024?
This year, Iran experienced sharp decrease of saffron production for several reasons of climatic changes, improper farming techniques, rainfall shortage, unusual cold in the last winter and warm weather period during saffron flowering time. The statistics shows that Iran saffron production in most regions has decreased by more than 60 percent. However, few farmers could manage to reduce damages through changing their farming techniques according to climatic changes. In this post, we analyze factors that influenced the reduction of saffron production in 2023-2024 crop. Also, we imply some of the field observation and weather troubles which were experienced in previous winter, as well as their consequences in saffron farms. Finally, some suggestions are provided to manage saffron cultivation and growth in next years.
According to the Khorasan Razavi agriculture organization, Iran saffron farms, on average, yields between 350 to 370 tons of saffron in recent years, while this year only 140 tons of saffron was produced.
What factors are involved in decrease of saffron production?
Considering the climate condition and geographical features, each region experienced a reduction in saffron production for different reasons, as mentioned below:
- 2022-2023 frostbite and bitter cold winter. (The main reason for saffron production reduction in 2023-2024
- Lower rainfall )Up to 52% reduction during the last winter and flowering time) and drought in Khorasan province especially some parts like Gonabad, Mah-Velat and Khaf.
- This summer, the temperature is nearly 2.8 degree warmer than the previous year in October and November 2022.
- Unusual change of weather during flowering time: This year, the weather suddenly changed to 7 C from 25-27C in two days’ time in harvest time for multiple times.
Other reasons include:
- Pest and rodents, such as mouse, and rabbit that take the saffron corms out of the land
- Lack of government support in cultivation, growth, and harvest of saffron
- Lack of proper training for local farmers
- Difficulty in finding pesticide and fertilizers
- No Guaranteed sales of product after harvest, leading to farmer discouragement.
The field analysis, researches and individual interviews with farmers in Khorasan region has resulted in the following, which shows the production reduction rate in 2023-2024 crop compared to the previous year.
In below chart, you can see the percentage of saffron harvest reduction in each region or city:
|Percentage of saffron yield reduction
Brief report of climate changes and saffron farm conditions:
This year, the Khorasan province experienced low temperatures of -25 to -28 C in most regions of Khorasan province in the last winter, which resulted in frostbite of the saffron green leaves and partial frostbite of the corms.
However, in some farms the snow coverage on the ground mitigated the damage rate to the lands because it acted like snow coating, which decreases the possibility of nephrosis of the leaves and corms.
On the other hand, the studies show that the current summer temperature in some regions in Khorasan province is nearly 2.8 degree warmer than the previous year in October and November 2022.
Other observations show that farms which are under cultivation for less than 5 years, that is young farms, experienced relatively less damage than older farms. The main reason for this positive result in younger farms is that they have cultivated the corm at a proper depth from the soil surface. The older a farm gets, the nearer the corms are to the soil surface, therefore, they are more exposed to frostbite. Hence, in the next section, we recommend a way to improve such situations in older farms.
In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, aiming to harvest sooner and more saffron flower, most farmers have not cultivated the saffron corms in proper soil depth (20cm deep is ideal) so, the new daughter are placed at 15-10 cm depth and become more vulnerable against frostbite.
Other evidences show that some farmers, who performed preventative measures such as farm irrigation and fertilizing in winter season, experienced less losses compared to other farms.
It is interesting to know that farms in tropical regions such as South Khorasan had suffered less damage from the cold last winter compared to Razavi and North Khorasan cities, which are colder. But they have seen more serious damage from the drought and heat of this summer, which has resulted in the reduction of the flowering yield of the fields like in other regions.
This is the point which was discussed at the beginning of the post. That in each region, depending on the climate and weather conditions, the effect of some influential factors in reducing the yield has been different from other regions.
The potential solutions
The potential solutions to overcome the above-mentioned challenge are as follows:
Corm cultivation depth:
According to the agricultural scientific resources, it is suggested to cultivate saffron bulbs at proper depth to improve farm performance and decrease the risk of frostbite. Considering the current climatic changes and high-temperature difference, the saffron bulbs should be cultivated no less than 20-22 cm under the ground. Most farmers in Khorasan province do not pay enough attention to this issue in the initial cultivation time, and they face more challenges in the next years as the daughter corms are placed in nearer levels to the soil surface. As mentioned earlier, the researches and observations show that to fight against the new climate condition, young farms, with less than 5 years’ time since the initial cultivation, have experienced less damage because their corms are still placed in proper depth. With respect to the significance of this solution, it is recommended to observe the proper depth of saffron corm planting. For older fields, it is best to move part of the corms to another field after 5 years since initial cultivation, or add the required amount of soil to the field in order to increase the planting depth, which includes a lot of trouble.
Preventative measures such as spraying fertilizer during cold winter
Preventative measures such as farm irrigation and spraying fertilizer during cold winter time makes the plant more resistant and adaptive in severe weather conditions, and reduces the risk of damages due to temperature tensions by feeding saffron leaves and corms.
These fertilizers, including Amino acids and Key Plex Petas, strengthens the saffron flower against temperature tensions.
Also, you can receive help from an agriculture expert to analyze the saffron plant and/or the farm soil. Hence, they can introduce you the most necessary nutritious fertilizers for spraying
Appropriate time of Irrigation
Saffron farmers intended to make changes to the saffron plant physiology and force the plant to grow earlier, because they intend to harvest saffron earlier and sell at higher prices, or they are performing in large farms. In large farms, 50 hectares of saffron farm, for example, the farmer needs to manage irrigation schedule in different parts of the land, in order to manage the final harvest in flowering time. This may reduce saffron flowering performance in case such extreme climatic changes, in spite of its potential advantages.
The saffron irrigation should start during September and October when it experiences 14 C temperature difference in day and night. However, in large-scale farms, the farmer has to irrigate the farms for multiple days and parts, in some cases. With respect to what is mentioned above, each region must deploy a specific irrigation strategy based on their average temperatures and climatic changes.
Climate and weather changes are an inseparable part of the cultivation, growth and harvest of agricultural products. In the absence of a suitable plan and solution to respond to these risks, the supply chain of valuable products such as saffron will face problems, which will have a great impact on the global markets of this product.As you may know, we experience a sharp price increase up to 50% at the beginning of the harvest season during the last month. During the recent days, the saffron price has decreased slightly because of some local economic parameters, yet the final prices are still 20 percent more than the previous year, on average, which we believe is at its lowest price levels this year. Yet, it is expected to grow by another 40% In the near future.We are always ready to provide suggestions and expert advice in the field of saffron market to our audience and customers. You can always reach us via email, in case you have any doubts or questions about the subject of the article.