Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is a sterile triploid plant belonging to the Iridaceae (Liliales, Monocots). Saffron is a spice derived from the flower and has for decades been the world's most expensive spice. Saffron is propagated by corms as the flowers are sterile and fail to produce viable seeds. A corm survives for only one season, producing up to ten "cormlets" that eventually give rise to new plants. Therefore, reproduction is human dependent; the corms must be manually dug up, broken apart and replanted. The natural propagation rate of saffron is relatively low. Biotechnological approaches have increasingly become a valuable tool assisting breeders to release new species and cultivars into the market more rapidly. Biotechnological approaches offer the capability to produce large quantities of propagating material in short time as well as the production of commercially important chemical constituents like, crocin, picrocrocin, crocetin and safranal under in vitro conditions. However, the protocols available so far need further refinement for their commercial utilization. Here we review the progress made in genus Crocus, and highlight the potential for future expansion in this field through biotechnological interventions.
Key words: Crocus sativus L, biotechnological approaches, sterile, corms.
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