This section is destinated to those persons who are interested in planting saffron, in small or large scale. Here, you'll find simple instructions to achieve good results in your crop. These suggestions are given by agronomic engineers who are experts in saffron and consequently, they know the best technical condictions for the crop.
1. Plot choice
One important issue before planting saffron is the choice of the adequate plot for the crop. In this way it is important to take into account the next parameters:
-Soil: we recommend tilth soils in order to prevent flooding and increase drainage. It is better not to use stony soils because they cause problems in the corms picking (saffron oignon). It is very important to reject soils with fungus problems.
-Irrigation: saffron is a crop which does not need big quantities of water, so 150 mm of rain water well distributed could suffice. However it has been proved that, in semiarid conditions, drip or sprinkler irrigation increase stigmas yield. Sprinkler irrigation is the most recommended method and its applied between the period from February to April.
2. Corms purchase
There is not a Register of Commercial Varieties neither of Protected Varieties which certify the corms quality.
In the absence of official guaranties, we'll have to be on one's toes and to use the common sense during the purchase. We recommend to check that corms have not been damaged during the extraction and they don't show fungal pollution.
3. Soil preparation before planting
Here we give several advices to carry out before the corms planting or once they are planted:
1. Three months before the plantation it is recomended to incorporate an organic fertilizer of 20-30 kg/hectare into the soil. To complete it, chemical fertilizers such as phosphor and potash are added afterwards.
2. One month after planting, a surface ploughing is suggested, at 10 to 20 cm depht, in order to break the crust of the soil. Also a light weeding is applied in order to lighten and aerate the soil and remove the weeds. These tasks are carried out by a rotary cultivator.
3. The main task is a deep ploughing, at 35 to 40 cm depth which can be carried out with a moldboard from March to April in order to collect the rain of these months; but it can also be done from May to June, before the corms planting.
Once we have chosen the plot, we have bought the corms and prepared the soil, we have to plant the corms. For this issue we have to consider several parameters:
-Corm size: it has a major impact on the first yield due to their influence on the number of shoots. Later on, this factor loses its importance as soon as the firs small corms start to appear and continue to reproduce. From the third flowering year and on, the dry stigmas show no yied improvement in respect to the sizes of the planted corms.
-Depth:it is recommended a depht of 15 to 20 cm avoiding they come out in the crop following years.
-Corm density: the density sugested is 60 corms/m2.
-Planting arrangement: planting takes places usually in furrows separated each other by a space of 50 cm (the distance between corms is 3,3 cm). It is posible the planting in terraces of 1,20 m width, allowing the mechanization.
-Planting period: the period recommended is the second half of June or the first half of September.
Fertilizer type and dosage: it is recommended to apply 4050 UF nitrate in form of potassium nitrate(21%), 80100 UF phosphore in form of superphosphate potash (18%) and 100120 UFpotassium in form of potassium shulfate(60%).
-Fertilizing season: it is recommended to apply it in January.
6. Weed control
It is recommended to remove the weeds since they cause damages to saffron crop. The loses are estimated in 5 to 20 %. The weed control can be carried out by two methods:
- Mechanical weed control: weeds can be removed by hand. Recently, mechanical digging has been applied between the cultivator lines.
- Chemical weed control: when there is not another option, weed control can be carried out with herbicides. Two short-life carbamates are used, such as diquat and paraquat. During growing period, herbicides such as gliphosate, linuron, metribuzin, pentimethalene and bendazon are used pure or in mixures.
7. Phytosanitary protection
-Desinfection of corms: it is recommended to apply Dicloran 10% and tiabendazol 33% (Sc) in doses of 0,3 and 0,4 % respectively.
-Plagues: saffron can suffer rodent attacks (mouses) that must be combatted at the first signs. The best way to fight them are asphyxiant or baits(Flocoumafen).
Rabbits can also produce small damages in the leaves plant.
The most common diseases are:
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. gladioli y Fusarium sp.
Rhizoctonia croccorum y Rhizoctonia violacea Tul.
Penicillium verrucosum var. Corymbeferum
Uromyces croci Pass.
Phoma crocophyla Saccardo
There are not curative control ways for the diseases, the only effective fighting ways are the preventive ones.
- Harvesting season: flowering takes place between the second half of October and the first half of November depending on the weather conditions.
- Hour and method: according to the country, flowers are collected at daybreak (Spain) or at midday (Greece). Harvesting is done according to the saffron stigmal removal method.
It is recommended to pick the flowers at daybreak in order to not damage them. It's better to collect flowers when they are close yet, in this way stigmas are removed easily by hand. However, in Greece flowers are picked once they are open (at midday) since the stigma removal is done by a mechanic method.
9. Corm rotation
The production period of saffron lasts 3 or 4 years. Normally, the preferred fields are those where no clover, potatoes or carrots have been cultivated for the last 3 years (or other cultivations that may carry diseases common to Crocus sativus L.)