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India is now trying to grow 'heeng' in Himachal Pradesh

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India is now trying to grow 'heeng' in Himachal Pradesh

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India is all set to cultivate heeng in the Himalayan region.

India is now trying to grow 'heeng' in Himachal Pradesh
Asafoetida or heeng (called in Hindi) is a common ingredient in Indian kitchens. The country annually imports about Rs 600 crore worth of the flavouring herb, which is now set to witness a sea change.
Scientists at CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Palampur (IHBT), are at present aim to cultivate heeng in the Indian Himalayas. Last week, the first sapling had been planted in Himachal Pradesh’s Kwaring village in Lahaul valley to start this mission.
This will make Himachal Pradesh the first state to cultivate heeng in the country.
So, what is heeng and why wasn't India growing it?
The herb's biological nomenclature is Ferula asafoetida. It is a herbaceous perennial plant and stores most of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.
Heeng can only be grown and cultivated in very cold regions such as Ladakh and Lahaul Spiti. The herb was earlier being imported from countries like Afghanistan and Iran. It thrives in dry and cold desert conditions.
How much heeng is consumed by Indians?
According to reports, India consumes about 40 percent of the world's production of heeng.
IHBT has set up a tissue culture lab that can grow lakhs of saplings, with funding of Rs 4 crore provided by the state government.
How will India cultivate heeng?
Until now, Heeng wasn't cultivated in India. Government data suggests that India imports about 1,200 tonnes of raw heeng which is worth Rs 600 crore from countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
In 2017, IHBT approached the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) with an ideation to conduct experimental project for growing heeng in the Indian Himalayas.
For research purposes, imported heeng seeds remained in the custody of NBPGR. The seeds went through a number of tests and under quarantine, to remove the possibility of any fungal/infectious diseases.
After going through all regulatory approvals from Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), six accessions of heeng (EC966538 with Import Permit-318/2018 and EC968466-70 with Import Permit-409/2018) were introduced by IHBT.
The biggest obstacle for the scientists was that heeng seeds remained under an extended dormant phase with the rate of seed germination being only one per cent.
Ashok Kumar, senior scientist at IHBT and Principle Investigator of the research project said, “Each of the six accessions imported showcased varying degrees of germination.”
He further added, "After about 20 days, all six accessions of seeds gathered from various regions of Iran germinated under controlled laboratory conditions."
What are some of the benefits of heeng?
The benefits and medicinal properties of heeng include relief from digestive and stomach disorders. It helps in solving problems related to asthma and bronchitis. The herb is also used to deal with menstrual pain and pre-mature labour.
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