Heeng Cultivation Project in India
Scientists at CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bio resource Technology (IHBT), Palampur are on a mission to grow heeng (asafetida) in the Indian Himalayas. IHBT is the only laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Himachal Pradesh.
It is a herbaceous plant of the umbelliferae family.
It is a perennial plant whose oleo gum resin is extracted from its thick roots and rhizome. The plant stores most of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.
It is endemic to Iran and Afghanistan, which are also the main global suppliers of it. It is very popular in India and is used in cooking
Climatic Condition: It thrives in dry and cold desert conditions. The plant can withstand a maximum temperature between 35 and 40 degree, whereas during winters, it can survive in temperatures up to minus 4 degree.
Regions with sandy soil, very little moisture and annual rainfall of not more than 200mm are considered conducive for heeng cultivation.
During extreme weather, the plant can get dormant.
Properties: It has medicinal properties, including relief for digestive, spasmodic and stomach disorders, asthma and bronchitis.
The herb is used to help with painful or excessive bleeding during menstruation and premature labour.
India’s Heeng Cultivation Project:
Heeng is not cultivated in India. India imports about 1,200 tonnes of raw heeng worth Rs. 600 crore from Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan
In 2017, IHBT approached the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) with an experimental project idea to cultivate heeng in the Indian Himalayas
In June 2020, the IHBT inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the agriculture ministry of Himachal Pradesh to jointly cultivate the heeng.
The agriculture ministry has identified four locations in the Lahul- Spiti valley and has distributed heeng seeds to seven farmers in the region However, the challenge for the scientists is that heeng seeds remain under a prolonged dormant phase and the rate of seed germination is just 1%.
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