Heeng Cultivation Project in India
- 20 Oct 2020
- 3 min read
Why in News
Scientists at CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur are on a mission to grow heeng (asafoetida) 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%.