CSIR-IHBT research makes asafoetida cultivation possible in Himachal

Asafoetida (hing) an important condiment of medicinal value that has so far been imported can now be produced within the country thanks to new seeds developed by CSIR-IHBT agro-technology.

CSIR constituent laboratory, Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, has now heralded a historical shift in farming practices with farmers of the remote Lahaul valley in Himachal Pradesh taking up cultivation of asafoetida to utilise the vast expanses of waste land in the cold desert conditions of the region. 
CSIR-IHBT scientists have also organised training programme on asafoetida cultivation
Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high value spice crop in India. India imports about 1,200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately $100 million annually on such imports. Lack of planting material of Ferula assa-foetida plants in India was a major bottleneck in the cultivation of this crop. 
Sanjay Kumar, director, CSIR-IHBT, planted the first seedling of asafoetida on 15 October, at a farmer’s field in village Kwaring of Lahaul valley to mark initiation of cultivation of asafoetida in India.
Since asafoetida is a major condiment in Indian cuisines, team CSIR-IHBT made relentless efforts for introduction of this important crop in the country. The institute introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran through ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi in October 2018. ICAR-NBPGR confirmed that this has been the first attempt in over 30 years for introduction of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) seeds in the country. CSIR-IHBT raised the plants of heeng at CeHAB, Ribling, Lahaul and Spiti, HP under the vigil of NBPGR. 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 and therefore cold desert areas of Indian Himalayan region are suitable for cultivation of asafoetida.
Raw asafoetida is extracted from the fleshy roots of Ferula assa-foetida as an oleo-gum resin. Although, there are about 130 species of Ferula found in the world, but only Ferula assa-foetidais the economically important species used for the production of asafoetida. In India, we do not have Ferula assa-foetida, but other species Ferula jaeschkeana is reported from the western Himalaya (Chamba, HP), and Ferula narthex from Kashmir and Ladakh, which are not the species that yield asafoetida.
Recognising the efforts of the Institute, Himachal Pradesh chief minister announced the introduction and cultivation of heeng in the state in his budget speech, on 6 March 2020. Consequently, MoU between CSIR-IHBT and State Department of Agriculture, was signed on 6 June 2020 for collaboration in the cultivation of heeng in the state. A capacity building programme was organised for officers of the State Department of Agriculture from 20 to 22 July 2020 in which twelve officers from different districts of Himachal Pradesh participated.
Further, CSIR-IHBT scientists also organised training programmes on asafoetida cultivation and laid out demonstration plots in villages of Madgran, Beeling and Keylong in Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh in collaboration with officers of State Agriculture Department for establishment of seed production chain and cultivation of asafoetida on a commercial scale.