Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Saving Frankincense

Frankincense, an important ingredient for conjure, might be getting harder to come by.

Recently, however, several factors have come together to pose a serious threat to Boswellia. Research led by Dutch scientist Professor Frans Bongers of Wageningen University in Holland, published last year, showed that commercial Boswellia was in danger of extinction. He says that the situation is only getting worse. Trees across Ethiopia, where most commercial frankincense originates, are dying at an alarming rate. “The forests there used to be a national concession,” Prof Bongers explains. “Then the government changed and allowed individual concessions. It has been good for the farmers in the short-term, because they can make more money, but terrible for the trees. Our investigations suggest that between nine taps per tree is sustainable, but some of the trees there have 23 taps, which is outrageous.” These over-tapped trees have a pollination rate of around 16 per cent, compared with 80 per cent for a healthy tree. Tapping also makes them more vulnerable to attacks from the longhorn beetle, which lays its eggs under the bark. What is more, farmers are turning to more profitable crops such as sesame and cotton, and clearing their Boswellia forests. “Demand is falling, but the price is still rising,” says Prof Bongers. “The farmers are having to use a greater land area for the same yield.” Frankincense is a tiny crop by world standards, with Ethiopia exporting around 5,000 tons per year: mostly to China for use in medicines and perfumes. The entire Catholic Church uses just 50 tons a year.
Admittedly, the resin was rare and expensive in past times, and returning to that condition might put practitioners in a more similar place to the likes of Agrippa. Full article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningadvice/9758581/What-will-save-the-frankincense-tree.html

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