LVLK (Lolab Valley, Northern Kashmir)- Field Report
Lolab Valley, Gagal Near Tangdhar Sector at De-facto India-Pak Border. Kupwara District, Kashmir. The northern most point of Kashmir within India i.e. Lolab Valley. We visited Lolab Valley in Late July-Early august and had documented the plants during early flowering stage. However after the abolishment of Article 370 the valley was sealed till October 10th when it was open to travel again, under a cantonment like environment where every 10 kms army will stop and search you if you chose to be on the road.
The mountains around Lolab Valley is filled with Army posts and army personnel patrolling random areas. Even though one can take a permit and roam around these last few mountains between India and Pakistan but with given circumstances the last thing they're expecting is a 12 men group hunting for Naturally growing ripe cannabis plants.
We still went up there knowing that we will at some point run into army and we did; but we had our respective ID's on us and 11 other guys on the team were residents of Lolab Valley itself , which ultimately proved to be of utmost help when things got real up in the mountains.
We found some exceptionally beautiful plants out there but I wish the Valley had been peaceful all through theseason. Here's a Brief report of our findings from from the Lolab Valley tours conducted in early veg. State during July-August 2019 and October 2019.
Most of the plants had some colors bleeding out on either leaf or flower because of the extremely cold weather on top of the mountains, especially above tree line.
The the first plant We encountered was completely jet black growing under the clear blue skies and sun on the meadows.
As we came up to the pasture just before the top of that particular mountain, A couple of sheep herders were already there with their live stock taking its toll on cannabis and other scarcely growing plants.
Northern Kashmir is much colder compared to the southern part which is also more populated and at the foothills while Northern and North west Kashmir is almost all mountainous terrains. The growing conditions are much harsher at the mountain tops compared to the open valley however there is absolutely zero cannabis plants down in the valley compared to places like Srinagar or Pulwama where cannabis is growing almost everywhere.
The cannabis plants can only be found high up in the mountains where cattle graze and littler, mostly in a meadow like portion near the mountain tops. Gagal in Lolab Valley is where "Lolab Valley Lemon Kashmiri" seeds were first picked from Last year 2018. We had to come and see this place for ourselves where every single plant grows with an unmistakable lemon flavour. The Bigger question though, was the 2 different types we had narrowed down in our ex-situ testing. Type - 1 became the tall stretchy plant and Type - 2 the short squatty plant. Both types are distinctly different enough for anybody to be able to spot very easily. Also interestingly despite the morphological differences both types expressed similar smells or terpene profile.
1. Open meadows above the tree lines which are exposed to full length of the sunlit hours. The plant population growing in the open meadows of Lolab valley was 90%+ tall, relatively better yielding (still very poor by commercial standards) and had somewhat narrower leaflets.
2. Tall grass and shaded spots under the thick pine and fir canopy, partially sunlit for shorter durations. The plants growing under the shade grow at a relatively cooler temperature during the day time and also with a higher RH and much less light intensity making through the first canopy of pine and fir trees.
Lolab Valley mountain slopes provide an interesting habitat for the Cannabis and plants in general. It features 2 different habitats : The plants growing under the shade grow at a relatively cooler temperature during the day time and also with a higher RH and much less light intensity making through the first canopy of pine and fir trees. It was noted duly that at least 90% or more plants growing in such habitats (shade/under forest canopy) tend to grow short and compact with leaves sporting a larger surface area as well. Both of these habitats are available in an almost equal proportion continuously on the mountains and can be attributed to the remarkable morphological difference between both types(Short and tall) and yet having a similar smell. Critical Information about such Natural arrangements in the plant habitats can be epigenetically carry forwarded from parentto progeny and the ancestral experiences could go on to create permanent changes in the phenotypic expression over a longperiod of time to best suit the growing condition or environment.
This particular site (Gagal) in Lolab Valley features a wide array of lemon based scents, Including but not limited to Sweet/Lemon, Tart/lemon, Lemon/fuel etc.
The plant grows in a truly wild manner with ample side branching tracking elusive sunlight on the the mountain slope in any which way it can, by constantly aligning its branches as per the movement of the sunlight for maximum exposure.
The seeds are extremely small as expected from an Undomesticated variety and also with a hard shell to get through the harsh winters on the ground without sprouting before spring time.
The populations growing above the tree line on these slopes experience a very harsh winter which includes several sub zero nights during the flowering period. Therefore the Flower/bract production is minimal but with dense layers of resin in the bracts, petioles and even fan leaves in some cases which is one of the harder to find traits in Landrace or traditionally domesticated heirlooms varieties. The flowering period is fine tuned according to the season at Northern Kashmir which is short at 34°N and over 8000 ft. Alt. By late october almost all of the seasonal vegetation on the mountain slopes dies out including cannabis plants.
This year we have been fortunate to be with a Big local team from every region, be it Uttrakhand, Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh (Next up) which also ensures some financial help for the younger guys in these communities, although they would gladly do it for free but this just all Pure Love.
Our Local Team at Lolab Valley posing with some Hash Hands to show the quality of resin that can be achieved working with these varieties. The mature resin makes for beautiful dark brown Charas even with a rugged rub down not performed as meticulously. In Kashmir Hand Rubbed Charas is known as "attar" derived from the Arabic word "Itra" which means perfume or scent. And rightly so, even the freshly Hand Rubbed charas had a soaring citrusy lemon smell with a muffled background of floral notes, which enhances much further than just a subtle background and can be savoured distinctly in cured version of this Charas.
The resin had a full bodied dark brown color, which was also unbelievably sticky and fragrant for something that was extracted with bare palms yet carefully worked into a work of art. Perhaps the best part about this variety is the effects and the way it builds up is novel and truly an exotic experience to our senses.
CONCLUSION : Lolab valley lemon kashmiri is perhaps the best example to illustrate the fact that copious to extreme resin production in Cannabis is not a by product of Domestication or artificial selection, rather an inherent characteristic found typically amongst cannabis populations growing in Highland regions at Higher latitude regions. The high resin output can be attributed to a single or a combination of multiple factors present within the terroir that the plant population inhabits.
Although, these populations boasts a thick coating of resin but visibly lacks the vigour, with a characteristic vein like stem oppose to the thick and pulpy stems as seen in the Domesticated varieties wherein the feral cannabis populations taken from the wild are grown and fertilized generation over generation gradually allowing for increased root mass to take up nutrients available in higher concentrations at its disposal unlike the harsh mountainous soil. These changes usually translates further into thicker stems and bigger and broader leaf surface area to utilize and mobilize the extra nutrient uptake effectively in domesticated populations.
The LOLAB Valley Landrace variety produces extremely small seeds with rock hard shells and a pear like shape for self ejection upon the ripening of the seed, in absence of harvest in wild. The features such as bigger seed size, brittle shells with diminishing protuberance around the funiculus inhibiting the self dispersal of seeds, are all aided through a set periodic harvest and seed saving techniques such as keeping them inside the house instead of letting it fall into the earth till the next season.
The season is extremely short up in the mountains at Northern Kashmir and during ex-situ cultivation in USA and India various growers reported a considerable plants showing autoflowering tendencies. With proper breeding tools and other resources these Primordial Landrace varieties can be turned into vigorous and more viable cultivars for everyone to experience around the world but it would require an informed and herculean effort to get it that Point.
The northern most point of Kashmir within India i.e. Lolab Valley.