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Saffron Crocus sativus

Roger Van Loon roger.vanloon at ping.be
Wed Sep 8 15:45:50 EST 1999

Beverly Erlebacher wrote:
> In article <37C3055D.7E04FA6F at inet.net.nz>,
> Andrew  <andrewmc at inet.net.nz> wrote:

> ><blockquote TYPE=CITE>Sorry if this is beyond the scope of this group.
> ><p>I am a student at Lincoln University in New Zealand and would be
> ><br>greatful for any information about Saffron (Crocus sativus) especially
> ><br>regarding commercial cultivation and how this might be modernised or
> ><br>improved. Any info would be greatly appreciated, either posted or
> ><br>e-mailed.
> ><br>Thanks.
> Saffron production involves a lot of finicky hand work, as the product
> is the stigmas of flowers of a very low-growing plant.  Hence, most
> saffron is produced in countries where very cheap temporary labour is
> readily available to do back-breaking work.
> How big is the world saffron market, anyway?  If it were e.g. one tenth
> the price, would the market consume ten times as much?  Could a larger
> market be developed, given that a wide variety of cheap saffron substitutes
> are in use now?  How much would a saffron picking machine cost to develop
> or purchase?  How many acres of saffron would be necessary to justify buying
> such a machine, given that it could only be used for a few weeks a year?
> Is it worthwhile to grow saffron on this scale compared to other crops?
> How would you control weeds, etc, in this perennial crop of small, low growing
> plants?  How would you control erosion when the plants are dormant?  Can
> saffron grow succesfully as a monoculture at all?

Fascinating questions, all of them - but I guess Andrew and most
of us would be even more interested in the answers. 
I don't pretend to be able to answer most of them. But I suppose
some questions can be answered by the Dutch who grow all kinds of
crocuses commercially - Also, I don't see why weed control,
erosion, and growing it as a monoculture are necessarily
different from other bulbs.
I suppose it is common knowledge that Crocus Sativus was once
grown commercially in the south of England (Saffron Walden). It
is therefore (for me) not easy to understand why it now seems
difficult in cultivation. However: I don' see any machine that
could pick the pistils of the individual flowers.
Andrew, if you have not been scared off then perhaps you could
try the newsgroups uk.rec.gardening or even nl.tuinen (the last
one only if you might understand answers in Dutch but perhaps you
might even get answers in English by E-mail.)

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