Different parts of the cactus can be used as fruit and vegetable for human consumption, fodder for cattle, and raw material for various industries to prepare plywood, soap, dyes, adhesives and glue, pharmaceutical products for treating blood sugar and various other disorders, and cosmetics such as shampoo, cream, and body lotions, etc. (Barbera et al., 1995; Pimienta, 1994).
The fruits of domesticated Opuntiacultivars are being sold as a desert fruit in markets of the USA, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, North Africa, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Similarly, the tender young pads of Optuniaand Nopaleaspecies, known as nopalitos,are extensively used as a fresh green vegetable in Mexico and Texas. Even its seeds can be used as flavouring agents. Use of cactus pear as a waterproof paint for homes is also reported (The Hindu, June 27, 2002).
In addition to the excellent quality and flavour of the fresh fruit, the young leaves serve both as a vegetable and salad dish and the immature fruit is used to make mock gherkins.
[Not currently cultivated in India][first introduced in 1987 by Felker from Texas/FAO]
Keeping in view the potential uses of cactus and its low water requirement, five promising clones (1270, 1271, 1280, 1287, and 1308) from Texas A&M University(see Parish and Felker, 1997) were introduced at Karnal. The salient characteristics of the five introduced clones are:
1270, high-protein forage and fairly sweet pale-green fruits originally from Dr. Severino Gonzaga Albuquerque in Petrolina, Brazil, where this forage variety was known as Palma redonda;
1271, fast growing and fairlysweet fruits originally from Dr. Severino Gonzaga Albuquerque in Petrolina, Brazil, where this forage variety was known as Palma giganta;
1280, thornless with pretty good yellow fruits obtained by C. Russell in 1983 from the Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo, Mexico;
1287, thorny, but best fruit variety, collected by C. Russell in Agua Prieta, Mexquite, San Luis Potosi, Mexico;
1308, very fast growing vegetable variety; O. cochinillifera, collected by C. Russell in Tamazunchale, San Luis Potosi, Mexico where it was growing in association with fruits and vegetables (beans, mangos, bananas, etc.) on steep slopes in a tropical environment.
<P>Table 1. Days Taken for Growth Initiation and Number of Cladodes Formed by Different Cactus Clones [pdf 2]
This study showedthat owing to its low water requirement and moderate tolerance for salt stress it can be grown as a companion crop with low-water-demanding and highly salt-tolerant trees of the genus Prosopis to augment fuelwood, forage, fruit, and vegetable needs of inhabitants in arid environments.
Cladodes of five clones dried for one month under shade before planting were planted on ridges (40-cm height) keeping one-third portion of the cladode under the soil and two-thirds above the soil surface.
All clones have been raised successfully, without supplemental irrigation, even under the field conditions.
[these clones can be used as a] source for introduction in other places: Jodhpur, Bikaner, Agra and Jhansi (Plate 4)
3.5 years until first flowers/fruits, 50-100g/fruit, ~2kg/plant (under potted conditions, more in field)
in general, fruiting-type clones were slower growing compared to vegetable and fodder types.
Of the 51 clones obtained from Texas A&M University, Kingsville, in January 1997, 48 have survived under Bikaner conditions
Table 2. Comparative Performance of Cactus Clones at Agra [pdf 4]
Two methods of planting viz., erect and flat planting were attempted. In erect planting, one-third portion of the cladode remained in the soil layer. In flat planting, the whole cladode was kept flat and covered with a 2.5-cm-thick layer of soil.
It is apparent that erect planting gave 100% survival of plants after one year for clones 1270, 1271, and 1280. Clones 1308 and 1287 recorded 83% and 75% success, respectively. Flat planting showed poor establishment for all clones. This may be because flat-planted cladodes were completely covered by a 2.5-cm-thick layer of soil, while erect-planted cladodes were partially buried in soil. In the latter case, sprouting took place from above ground parts of cladode. Rotting of cladodes was markedly higher when they were completely buried in the soil.
Table 4 survival rate [pdf 6]
indicating that the clone for vegetable use has more moisture than the cladodes of forage and fruit varieties.
Table 9: Rating of Cactus Fruit Based on Sweetness and Taste on 0 to 10 Scale By 25 Respondents [pdf 8]
Senna (Cassia augustifolia), was planted between two plants of prickly pear on ridges and lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) planted in beds (between ridges) at 75-cm spacing (rows and plants).
Cactus cladodes remain green, even during May and June, when no other green fodder is available for milk cattle under Bundelkhand climatic situations.
Under the World Bank aided National Agricultural Technology Project, a project on developing live fencing practices with a budget of about US$400,000 isin operation at seven locations in India. In this project, edible cactus is being exploited as a successful live fence to protect agricultural fields from wild animals, particularly blue bulls and other stray animals.
clone 1271, with no irrigation and fertilization showed that nearly 37.5 t/ha of green fodder could be produced from soils thatnormally are considered unsuitable for other crops.
Thar desert in Rajasthan, Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, southwestern parts of Haryana, Bundelkhand, and other similar rainfed areas prone to severe droughtwould be very productive.