1. ORIGIN AND SIGNIFICANCE OF SAFFRON.
Saffron consists of the stigma attached or not in the style of the flower of Crocus sativus Lin. It is the species whose global market has been and is led by Spain not only in production but also at export.
Even still unknown origin of the word your name is very similar in different languages ??having survived almost no alteration in Arabic (Zafaran), English (saffron), French (Safrane), Italian (zaferano), Hindu, Greek and so on. Just as the company maintained its idiom, has been maintained over time their way of growing, harvesting, drying and peeling and can be seen in frescoes found dating back to 1600 BC This determines which remains a culture in which labor is a decisive economic factor for production and pricing. Labor involved in the collection of individual flowers of 15 cm from the ground up, and the individual pruning for flower silk attached to the style and separate from other floral elements.
There are references dating back to Saffron a. 2300 C. From this date are varied and diverse references to its use in religious rites and ceremonies, medicine, gastronomy, etc..
This special value attached to the determinant of labor in their production process, is because of its high economic value. While 0.5 kg of saffron and cost no more than a horse, remains the most expensive spice in the world, being its value five times higher in vanilla and about 30 times the cardamom. The saffron because of its high economic value has been called <> having been subjected to tampering and counterfeiting diverse leveraging its name and its value.
Saffron is grown in Spain for over 1000 years, with a deeply rooted tradition and being exported to practically every country in the world. Saffron has been saving for many families in the Channel during the twentieth century and has walked the name of this area for all countries in the world, gaining recognition and fame for his undoubted quality fruit the size of your thread, its characteristics organoleptic (color, taste and smell) and dedication in processing (harvesting, peeling and drying).
2. FOREIGN TRADE OF SAFFRON.
2.1. World situation.
Are Spain’s export statistics that provide a more accurate idea of ??the dimensions of the international market of saffron. The study of the International Trade Centre UNCTAD / GATT states that in the period 1976-1980 the world market ranged between 30-50 tons saffron worth close to $ 15 million.
During the decade of the 90 major producers of saffron would be Spain, Iran, Greece, Morocco and India. It also determines the quantities exported from Spain could be in the international market about 20 tons of saffron to enter into direct competition with the Spanish saffron based on all of its lower price. Could be estimated that at most, at the present time, about 50 tonnes are traded internationally for a slightly higher value at 50 million and involved the collection of more than 10000 million flowers grown in more than 500 hectares These are the magnitudes of saffron in the world context refer to Spain.
2.2. Exports from Spain.
About 40-50% of the volume of world trade to the quantities exported to Spain. Saffron export for nearly 100 years amounted to a value close to that of oranges according to the Directorate General of Customs and amounts that ranged around 80000 kg. Export in the early twentieth century represented about 80% of production and was sent to countries as far away as India or Russia.
Quantities and values ??that are far away not only at the time of the current situation. In recent years, the value exported from Spain, according to the base of the ICEX ESTACOM has oscillated between 2000 and 2500 million pesetas, slightly below the 3000-3200 million pesetas reached in the late eighties. The quantities exported ranged between 20-22 tonnes, values ??very close to the production data provided by MAPA.
Of the total exported from Spain around 70-75% are saffron threads saffron ground with the remainder (product obtained by grinding the stigmas attached or not style). The average value of exported saffron kilogram FOB considering has ranged from the 8,500 ptas / kg and 105,000 pesetas / kg. Spanish exports are directed to more than 50 countries spread over five continents.
The exports to Gulf countries mean 40-50% by weight of total exports in strand (if somewhat less in value). The second major destination of saffron threads are the U.S. and Canada that together account for 20-25% of the total or weight in value. The EU-12 was exported between 10-13% by weight and ASPAC countries sent between 10-12% of the saffron strands.
Spanish exports of ground saffron concentrate on European countries since the EU-12 and EFTA countries represent over 90% by weight. Among them stands out Switzerland, Sweden and Italy, which together mean 60-70% by weight and its shipments to dominate the denomination Mancha.
Saffron export sector consists of small, family businesses, with low technological level, with little development in the forms of presentation and packaging, traditional exporters that are sent almost exclusively this species, being fully cognizant of the shopping channels and distribution. The export sector of saffron has a high degree of business concentration and geographic concentration in certain low weight of the producing area. However, competition in foreign markets is sometimes excessive. Competition, which usually means prices to the detriment of quality and favored by consumer ignorance.
2.3. The importation into Spain.
Saffron imports were nil or symbolic until 1988, since 1989 acquiring increasingly significant value to reach 900 million in 1994. imports caused by the price differential between the Spanish saffron and other sources as well as the decline of Spanish.
Imports come primarily from Iran and Greece with lots of Morocco and India testimonial. These imports in the Iranian case have an average price of about half of Spanish saffron.
The increase in imports has determined that the coverage rate of imports by exports has gone, in value, from 13% in 1990 to 42% in 1994. This trend threatens the national production and can mean a loss of identity of Spanish saffron as a result of the free movement of goods within the EU-15 and the absence of regulations on the quality of saffron in most countries Europeans.
2.4. The future of saffron.
Saffron is a spice or leading product not only for its intrinsic economic value but also for their enormous cultural significance and even religious gastronomic many different countries.
It is a spice whose cultivation, harvesting, peeling, drying and packaging has evolved very rarely require manpower to carry out the various phases, determining the final price and causing a competitive difference for the cost of this labor. This, above all, since 1988 has challenged the world leader in Spain as a major producer and exporter. Position achieved on the basis of quality Spanish saffron., Being known their names in the world and constitute a heritage of great value.
Faced with this impasse in the production and marketing efforts, standardization of the quality of saffron has been made in the quantification of certain parameters including chromatographic and spectrophotometric methods. Instrumental assessment of the quality of saffron has advanced in recent years trying to avoid subjective evaluation of the organoleptic characteristics traditionally permitted crocuses difference not only for their country, but even by geographic location in which it was harvested.
Spanish Saffron should consider a change strategy to remain competitive on the basis of an appropriate value. It has the best quality saffron known and recognized internationally but has long been the subject of mixing, tampering and forgery, but its price is higher for the higher cost of labor in our country than competitors.
The future strategy should be based on the one hand, to highlight those elements that differentiate the Spanish saffron and bull, in reducing the costs of growing and handling, maintaining and improving the cultivation and the profitability of the farmer.
To highlight those elements that differentiate the Spanish saffron, and in light of regulatory developments, it seems reasonable to advance the assessment of physical characteristics (length of the strand, the stigma and style) as well as in the assessment of the chemical that define the qualities of saffron. Picrocrocin, crocin and safranal are basically three pigments that characterize the color and aroma of saffron. The three pigments are quantified in the ISO 3632 in December 1993 to differentiate qualities UV-VIS spectrophotometry using an aqueous solution.
Recent studies help to differentiate the Spanish saffron from other countries through a more accurate analytical measurement of the characteristic pigments of saffron.
3. Botanical characteristics.
The Crocus sativus belongs to the order Liliaceae, Iridaceae family.
The genus Crocus has about 75 or 80 species, about 40 located in Europe. The main characteristics of the species Crocus sativus are:
It is a herbaceous perennial, with a standard height of 10 to 25 cm in some areas due to environmental factors can exceed 50 cm. Its color is green.
It has a solid bulb 2.5 to 3 cm in diameter. It has a terminal or apical bud and often a side that give rise to leaves. The bulb is coated with a rough tunic fibers crosslinked earthy color or light brown. It is known popularly as the “onion”.
The leaves seem to be born of the bulb, its base wrapped in pods, are Linera, almost cylindrical, erect, dark green and marked longitudinally with a white band on its inner surface and a rib on the outside. The number of leaves, grouped in bundles, between 6 and 10, their width is usually about 2 mm and its height exceeds that of the flowers, can reach and exceed 30 cm wing as they plant quality. Leaves and flowers are usually at the same time. late in the spring these leaves are dried. They are commonly known as “pigs”, “cordgrass” or “wire-grass.”
The flowers are usually 1 to 3 per stem of the plant, which in turn can consist of 2 or 3 stems. The flower has 6 petals purple.
The stigmas stand in the hollow of the flower in number of 3, yellow or orange-red, 3 to 4 cm long, once dried they are reduced to 2 cm. Finest at the base, gradually become thicker at its tip reaching about 2 mm are usually fluted and topped club-shaped or small tube. The dry stigma has a strong fragrance and is what is called pure saffron. Commonly known as “Saffron nails.” The whole flower is called “pink crocus.”
Remember five varieties. Saffron strands of Italy introduced 3-4 cm long, stigma broad at the end, trumpet-shaped, large, bright red, a little greasy. It is very aromatic and dyed the water soon.
Saffron from Spain has long thin filaments that earlier, less greasy, more dry, easy to break, not very bright color and slightly bitter taste.
Saffron strands of France has long, elastic, wide color ranges from bright red and dark red, slightly bitter taste.
Austria’s saffron filaments is characterized by the same Italian, very aromatic, red-brown and taste sour.
Saffron East or Persia has little aroma and thick filaments.
3.3. Sensitive phases.
3.3.1. Growing season.
Saffron comes from organically in a bulb begins its cycle of development from its status as meristem found at rest, during which they have no place or division or cell differentiation.
The bulb of the saffron is an underground organ, with or surrounded by coats that protect against excessive water loss and possible injury from mechanical character.
According to N. Azizbekova et al meristem development of new bulbs Crocus sativus begins immediately after flowering in November.
At the base of the bulb maternal meristem cells, through multiple mitosis, leading to the formation of embryonic tissue, from which get the children up of the bulbs.
These embryonic tissues, with continued ability of cell division, initiated the development of its activity very slowly, dormant.
As a result of initial cell division, apical meristems are formed or primary, paramount to growth. Through multiple meristematic tissue differentiation created after the rest of the plant tissues.
Already in the first composition begin to emerge rudimentary vegetative organs which, over time, transformed into a plant. The caulículo, cauline portion embryo, then points to what will become the stem, the leaf primordia, embryonic buds tiny, show the outline of which months later have become leaves.
From December to February apical stem development continues at a slow pace, constituting the main event the initiation and development of leaves and roots.
While the mitotic activity of apical meristems observed in these months, a pattern highly attenuated, it is this activity that determines, on the whole, the pattern of growth not only through the formation of organs and tissues of leaves and roots, but also fostering a significant accumulation of reserves in the bulb, which will, ultimately, to determine its size, flower quality and number of flowers. In this fact lies the importance of the bulb that is taking all the measures aimed at providing care to the plant and requirements of those in need at this time.
3.3.2. Reproductive period.
During the month of March, operating in the transition period saffron vegetative to generative event constituting one of the periods is critical.
This transition is characterized by a feverish start mitotic activity of cells with a profusion of divisions and distinctions that give rise to profound cellular acceleration phase.
Although the bulb gives the impression of being at rest, inside is developing a process of vital importance, decisive impulses transformations activation mechanisms whose line of action is determined genetically and whose climax will involve biological modeling plant morphology and the formation of it.
According to N. Azizbekova and others during the transition from vegetative growth phase that generated the change is more significant in the differentiation of the apex.
Vegetative meristems, placed in the center and apex of the bulb, made its transformation to become buds and root sprouts.
When operating the transition from one to another period is a considerable increase in energy consumption at all levels. The formation of young tissues significantly increases the breathing rate thereby increasing perspiration., Which leads to heightened expectations of water by the plant, hence if rainfall in late March did not occur, or occur in meager proportions, watering must be done to Cuba.
From April to June, according to N. Azizbekova and others, the saffron mitotic activity decreases during the formation of generative organs, however, continue to differentiate until August.
Arriving in April the new bulbs are fully formed, and not experiencing any increase either in weight or thickness.
End of dry leaves, segándose for use as fodder for livestock or disposed of on land.
During these months the bulb remains dormant. With the arrival of high temperatures produces plant input in a phase of slowing down. Its activity is progressively reduced until it ceased almost completely. Saffron enters the phase known as rest, dormancy or torpor.
In late August the plant awakens from its slumber, it resumes its normal metabolic activities, identifying with their environment again and being integrated into that gear that form, their close relationship, soil, plant and climate.
New shoots emerge from the bulb, with leaves enveloping them. Embryonic buds become true floral organs, is taking place the beginning of the end of a process, the flowering, which will culminate outside the presence of the flower, whose initiation took place during the transition period of plant vegetative to reproductive , genetically programmed like the previous ones, and conditioned by both endogenous and exogenous factors. In the first case with plant growth hormones as protagonists and in the second case, by light, temperature and humidity preference.
It defines a critical period is just the barrier of hours of light needed for the plant to flower, which exceeded the short-day plant does not bloom the saffron. Given the inherent characteristics of saffron latitudes where their crops are located, dates of flowering, light absorption by their bodies and their status as short-day plant, can be put their critical period of flowering in about twelve hours of darkness at least, or what is the same, with a maximum of light requirements estimated at about eleven hours, which exceeded the plant will remain in a vegetative state.
The optimum temperature for flowering of saffron can be at values ??ranging between 10 ° C and 15 º C.
Is only done via agamic as cultivated plants are sterile. The phenomenon is due to the very origin of saffron, ie triploid hybrid between two species near the Crocus sativus. The bulb is used by definition tuber thickened base of a cauline axis compact internodes with nodes and differentiated content escuamiformes thicker leaves than normal. The body of the bulb – tuber tissue is formed by reservation. The basal leaves are left dry at the nodes and form a kind of protection against dehydration and mechanical damage called wrapper. At the upper end of the vegetative terminal bud bulb found in the bulbs – tubers larger some lateral buds, in case the principal can not be developed for whatever reason, can lead to flower stalks.
The bulbs for planting are taken from a preexisting culture has reached the end of the cycle of decline in the vegetative phase, from July to mid September. It makes a selection and pre-selected, which are 30-40 cm diameter are released from the leaves and dry the outer shell, so brilliant is internal. After the planting is done, but causes adverse if not done immediately, you can easily keep the bulbs in damp and aerated.
Soon two outbreaks originate, protected by three or four layers of wrap, which then protrude from the ground and release a bundle of 10-12 leaves. Towards the second half of October the flowers appear, that in a period of twelve hours open completely and adopt the appearance of bells.
Vegetative activity stops in the winter and then continue with particular force by the end of March. From the base of the buds are formed bulbitos, which swell with time. this process takes place first at the expense of the mother bulb, followed by those made of leaves. Therefore, the propagation takes place naturally by fragmentation of the mother bulb.
The plant can withstand temperatures rigorous, with values ??ranging from 35-40 º C in summer and -15 º C or -20 º C in winter, related to the environment, as temperatures vary markedly own soil. However, values ??of around -15 º C or -20 º C if they coincide with critical periods of vegetation can cause changes in the bulb serial, impacting significantly on the final yields of product.
The water needs are estimated at about 600-700 mm of water per year. He says two heavy rainfall a year coinciding with the differentiation and flowering periods may be sufficient to supply the water requirements of the plant.
There are precedents of experiments carried out on irrigated farms, where it has become clear that providing the appropriate culture media, machined to the limits in that it permits have been obtained yields comparable to those produced by other crops vegetables.
Saffron temporarily depletes the ground for the crop itself, it is true that once lifted the safranal is advisable to spend 10 or 12 years before replanting saffron in these areas, although they may be used for other legumes such as cereals.
The soil under the best evidence has responded to the demands of the plant is preferably one characterized by chalky texture – clay, limestone containing about 40-50%.
The soil should be deep to avoid compaction and in order to allow the storage of water, a fundamental aspect in the case of climates with low rainfall. 60-70 cm deep is usually appropriate. It should be a balanced soil organic matter in order to reduce the risks of erosion are exposed to quite a few land devoted to this crop. Containing 1.5 to 2% organic matter can be obtained good yields of saffron.
The site should provide a relief as flat as possible and facing south for maximum benefit of solar radiation. It would be advisable also that the location of the land for the cultivation of saffron was at best sheltered from the winds and ETP increases the crop.
It should be grown in soils of steep slopes for erosion phenomena that they can give. It is also desirable that the three years preceding the planting of saffron crop land have not been occupied by crops such as alfalfa, beets, potatoes, carrots, clover, radish and other plants of related species, subject to diseases that are common saffron.
4.1. Farming activities.
If it is a soil that has not previously supported any crop it is advisable to make a superficial digging depth of 10-12 cm between December and February, aims at preparing the ground before the main work or deep plowing.
The objectives of this work are breaking the surface crust or hardpan soils often have these, eradicating plant material serves as a cover to them, chopping the material to be incorporated later to the soil as organic matter. Simultaneously with this work, if the soil is rocky, there is the need of cleansers.
Following this cleaning operation will be incorporated into the soil the plant material accumulated, it is not advisable to bury deeper than 12 cm.
The main task should be carried out correctly it can mean, if not done right, a decline of 10% of the crop. The operation consists of a deep plowing, between 35-40 cm, always depending on the properties of which is endowed with the soil for water retention. One purpose of this work is to preserve the soil from erosion caused by weathering. Another purpose is to fluff the soil thereby facilitating water infiltration and thereby contributing to increased soil reserves, this will contribute to avoid, where drought, the formation of more or less dense concentrations of salts harmful to the saffron. Also get to keep the soil aerated.
The main task is usually carried out in March or April to collect their own rain during these months, but also runs in May or June, preceding the planting of bulbs and provided that the soil present the necessary conditions for it.
Traditionally this work is done with a moldboard plow. In calcareous soils this must be provided with a grid of chisel, to facilitate the cutting of the land in better condition.
Once the planting of the bulbs, about a month later, it is desirable to give a dig depth of 10-12 cm by noting that the ground indicates the presence of weeds as a result of the removal of land to run the plantation . Make tact not to damage the bulbs.
In September there is to apply a binary surface between rows in order to break the surface crust that forms at the output of summer fluff and aerate it and remove weeds.
In October, a few days before flowering, it is advisable to give a slight loosening cava to the surface crust and allow the flowering of the plant without problems. Ten or twelve days after harvest of the flower the first year, in October or November, according to regions, it is appropriate to engage other surface cava, between rows, with the same purpose as above.
In March or April, after the expiry of the period of frost, the wire-grass is mowed, which is used as fodder for livestock.
In May it is necessary to practice another binary, distributing and burying the fertilizer to the soil has to, binary has to be repeated in June. Soil should be maintained at all times free of vegetation adventitia.
During the summer months are made very shallow turbines designed to avoid crusting of the soil surface.
In September, apply another very light champagne to provide at the first year, a bloom of the plant efficiently, raking and smoothing the ground in October.
After collection of the flower the second year, repeat these operations during the third year. Conducted collection of flower the third year it is advisable to lift the safranal, an operation that is usually held in May or June.
Cultivation can be extended a fourth year, but it should be noted that the yields obtained are so meager that under no circumstances outweigh the work that must be applied to the field to get them.
The bulbs are harvested must be thoroughly cleaned by removing soil and other plant debris which they are attached, selecting and retaining those that show the size and quality best properties for the next planting.
For storage of the bulbs are needed ventilated rooms, with a temperature of 5 º C and a relative humidity of 70-80%. We must not hoard them, but to spread in layers about 20 cm.
Before planting the bulbs is recommended subject to a treatment with a fungicide and keep for a week or more at a temperature of 35 º C. suberized possible process and helps combat wounds in other bulbs, fusarium infection.