Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology initiates asafoetida farming in Lahaul Valley

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New Delhi, Oct 19 (PTI) Farmers of the remote Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh have started taking up cultivation of asafoetida (hing), mainly due to the efforts of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, using the vast wasteland in the cold desert conditions of the region, the CSIR said on Monday.

Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high-value spice crop. India imports about 1,200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately USD 100 million per year for it.

Asserting that a historical shift in farming practices is in the offing, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said lack of planting material of Ferula assa-foetida plants in India was a major bottleneck in cultivation of this crop.

The Palampur-based Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), one of the laboratories of the CSIR, brought in the asafoetida seeds and developed its agro-technology.

The first seedling was planted by CSIR-IHBT director Sanjay Kumar at a farmer's field in Kwaring village of Lahaul Valley on October 15 to mark initiation of asafoetida cultivation in India.

The institute introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran through ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR) in October 2018. ICAR-NBPGR confirmed that in the past 30 years, this has been the first attempt for introduction of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) seeds in the country.

The plant prefers cold and dry conditions for its growth and takes approximately five years for the production of oleo-gum resin in its roots, therefore cold desert areas of the Indian Himalayan region are suitable for cultivation of asafoetida. PTI PR NSD