Pulwama, Sep 02: In a collaborative effort, an Austrian scientist, Dr M Horacek, and Professor Jyoti Vakhlu from Jammu University are working on a pioneering project to accurately determine the geographic origin of Saffron using cutting-edge methodologies.
This research holds the promise of transforming the saffron industry by preventing mislabelling and fraud. The project, "Stable isotope and endomicrobiome as a marker for origin of saffron in absence of genetic markers," is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and brings together the expertise of Dr Horacek and Professor Vakhlu.
Their recent achievements have resulted in the publication of two peer-reviewed papers, namely "Microbiome Fingerprint as Biomarker for Geographical Origin and Heredity in Crocus sativus: A Feasibility Study" and "Exploring the Potential of Sr87/Sr86 Isotope Ratio with Strontium and Rubidium Levels to Assess the Geographic Origin of Saffron."
Dr Horacek, during his visit to the Pampore area of Pulwama and Kishtwar, collected soil samples and interacted with local farmers. He is employing stable isotope analysis to develop methods for differentiating saffron from distinct geographic origins.
Dr Horacek emphasized the urgent need to verify the authenticity of Saffron's geographic origin due to rampant adulteration and mislabelling in the market. "Saffron's price variation across different regions of the world has led to instances of fraudulent mislabelling. My research seeks to tackle this issue and ensure the accuracy of saffron labelling," stated Dr Horacek
Professor Jyoti Vakhlu, an expert in biotechnology at Jammu University, is contributing her expertise to the project. She highlighted the absence of genetic markers in saffron and explained that her research would focus on leveraging microbe techniques to differentiate saffron samples based on their geographic origins. "Each region's saffron is associated with location-specific microbes. By analysing these microbes, we aim to distinguish samples from various geographic origins," elaborated Professor Vakhlu.
The combination of stable isotope analysis and microbe techniques presents an innovative approach to address the issue of fraudulent labelling and misrepresentation in the saffron industry.
This ground-breaking research not only has the potential to safeguard the interests of saffron farmers and traders but also to enhance consumer confidence in the authenticity and quality of saffron products worldwide. As the project continues to progress, Dr Horacek and Professor Vakhlu remain committed to refining their techniques and methods to ensure accurate differentiation of saffron samples from diverse geographic origins.
Their collaborative efforts underscore the significance of interdisciplinary research in solving real-world challenges and driving positive change in industries crucial to global trade and agriculture.
Dr M Horacek's visit to Pampore Karewas was facilitated by CL Bhat, former AAO, Department of Agriculture Kashmir.