Safflower, botanically Carthamus tinctorius L., and locally known as Kasumba is a crop that has great potential to be sown in Pakistan. The crop can be successfully raised in the present climatic conditions. Its strong stem enables it to withstand drastic climatic variations. Flowers are produced at later stage of growth which produces seeds rich with oil. Each flower may contain 15 – 30 seeds. The plant can reach a height of about 3 feet at the time of maturity.

Basically it is an oil seed crop which has utilization in colour, paints, varnishes and other oil based industry. The oil obtained is of high quality and costly than sunflower and palm oil. Furthermore, the diversity in the flower colour makes it versatile crop for harvesting dyes and shades of yellow, orange or red which is a source of dye.

In Pakistan, Safflower is the crop that is just sown on less than 1 thousand acre annually. The low area under cultivation is due to non-availability of good quality seeds. Most of the farmers are unaware of this oil seed crop as there is no well-established market for this crop. In Pakistan, the best suited areas for its cultivation are the low rainfall areas of KPK and Punjab.

It is sown in October and harvested at the end of April in Pakistan. This crop is easily cultivable in hot climates and is suitable for Southern region of KPK. This crop can be sown either by direct seeding or through transplanting it when the plant is about 4-5 week old. Both of these two methods have proved to be working under Pakistani climatic conditions. Most of the safflower grown worldwide is by the direct seeding method and considered economical.

Weeds pose a serious problem during early period of the crop. The crop is slow growing in the early days and weeds can cover the crop if not managed properly. Safflower plant has thorns and it offers difficulty for the labour to harvest. Birds also eat the seed of safflower, which also adds to the losses. Also, there is no locally made mechanical harvester available in Pakistan for this crop and this is one of the main reasons of low adoption of newly introduced crops.

Safflower seeds contain 30 – 35% oil in it. The oil is rich in linoleic acid and has the highest percentage as compared to maize, sunflower and other popular oil seed crops. The oil is good for human consumption and has been used worldwide in salad dressings, margarines and other human edible products. The oil can be sold at a much better price than the already selling oils in the market.

The dyes obtained from safflower flower are used in human food colours. The flowers are dried and then can be used in cooking especially as an alternative to saffron which is much costly. The consumers prefer eatables which have natural colours used in it. Although, the artificial colours are cheaper but can cause health losses as well.

Fiber obtained from cotton, wool and from natural sources can be dyed with the colour obtained from safflower. The colour is known as “CI Natural Red 26”. Other commercially produced fibers such as polyester can also be dyed by mixing the safflower dye with other chemicals. Some traditional Chinese medicines also use the flowers of safflower as natural pain killer, improve blood circulation and to maintain a healthy life.

NARC, Islamabad has been conducting experiments on this crop for a number of years and also has mandate to check exotic varieties that can give sustainable production in Pakistani environment. They have found a number of varieties well suitable for Pakistan.

In conclusion, the crop has great potential in Pakistan. Farming community can develop a local market by signing contracts with food companies, oil industry and paint manufacturers. The agro industry linkage will then impart a better earning opportunity and availability of raw products for the industry in return. In addition to exploration of its farming scope and nutritional importance there is also a clear direction for agricultural engineers and agricultural engineering students who can work/design their study for the development of mechanical harvester at local level as it is not available in Pakistan for this crop.

This article is collectively authored by Muddassir Ayaz Mahmood Chaudhary1 and Shakeel Ahmad*2-1Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. 2Plant Production Department, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

EditorialArticlesCrop,industrial,Pakistan,potential,SafflowerSafflower, botanically Carthamus tinctorius L., and locally known as Kasumba is a crop that has great potential to be sown in Pakistan. The crop can be successfully raised in the present climatic conditions. Its strong stem enables it to withstand drastic climatic variations. Flowers are produced at later stage...Pakistan's Only Newspaper on Science and Technology