Context:  The farmers of the remote Lahaul valley in Himachal Pradesh are taking up cultivation of asafoetida (Heeng) to utilize vast expanses of wasteland in the cold desert conditions of the region.

More on the news:

  • Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur brought in seeds of asafoetida and developed its agro-technology.
  • The first seedling of asafoetida was planted by CSIR-IHBT recently at farmer’s field in village Kwaring of Lahaul valley to mark the initiation of cultivation of asafoetida in India.
  • CSIR-IHBT made relentless efforts for the 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).
    • CSIR-IHBT raised the plants of heeng at CeHAB, Ribling, Lahaul & Spiti, H.P. under the vigil of NBPGR. 

Asafoetida (Heeng)

  • It is one of the top condiments and is a high-value spice crop in India. 
  • India imports about 1200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately 100 million USD per year. 
  • Lack of planting material of Ferula assafoetida plants in India was a major bottleneck in the cultivation of this crop.
  • 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, therefore cold desert areas of Indian Himalayan region are suitable for cultivation of asafoetida.
  • Extraction of resins:
    • 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, only Ferula assa-foetida is 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.

Image Source: PIB