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Crocus blooms in the living room? Kashmir's saffron farmers get creative

Abdul Majeed Wani uses a flashlight to carefully inspect his blooming saffron crocus plants in red plastic baskets placed on iron racks. He's deliberately deprived this small room of natural light, covering the windows to "maintain the quality" of the crop.

Mr. Wani is among the first farmers in Kashmir to embrace this relatively new technique of growing saffron indoors, stacked in vertical columns. "It is the third year I am growing saffron inside my house, and the results are very promising," he says with excitement. "We have got better produce both in quality and quantity."

Mr. Wani comes from a traditional saffron-growing family from Shaar-i-Shalli, a hamlet located on the foothills of Zabarwan mountains. Most of the people in his village and the surrounding areas have been growing the prized spice for centuries. Saffron is grown in a few places around the world, requiring unique kinds of soil and specific climatic conditions. Kashmir is the second-largest producer after Iran, and saffron cultivation is seen as a symbol of Kashmiri culture.

"The new technique has raised huge hopes in us," says Javaid Ahmed, another saffron farmer from Pampore who's embraced indoor farming. "No matter how erratic rain or how early we receive snowfall, there is now more probability for our saffron to bloom in better ways."

In 1996, more than 14,000 acres of land were used to grow saffron in Kashmir, according to Department of Agriculture data. Over the next couple decades, that number dwindled to 6,000, and production decreased by nearly 90% from 16 metric tons to 2 metric tons, much of which is attributed to climate change.

Click here to read the entire article on Yahoo News

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