History of the USE of Opuntia as Forage in Mexico
Ecophysiology of Opuntia Ficus-indica
Germplasm Resources and Breeding Opuntia for Fodder production<br>
Production and use of Opuntia as Forage in Northern Mexico<br>
Opuntia as Fodder in the Semi-arid Northeast of Brazil<br>
Utilization of Opuntia for Forage in the United States of America<br>
Opuntia as Feed for Ruminants in Chile<br>
Opuntia spp. for Fodder and Forage Production in Argentina: Experiences and Prospects<br>
Opuntia - A Strategic Fodder and Efficient Tool to Combat Desertification in the WANA Region<br>
Nutritional Value of Opuntia Ficus-indica as a Ruminant Feed in Ethiopia<br>
The Use of Opuntia as a Fodder Source in Arid Areas of Southern Africa<br>
Cultivation of Opuntia for Fodder Production: from Re-vegetation to Hydroponics
Annex 1: Some Opuntia Websites
Opuntia, maize (zea mays), and agave have been major in Mexico since Aztecs
Opuntia are well adapted to arid conditions and poor soil
good for humans, but best for animal forage, highly digestable, water, minerals (must be combined with protein to form complete diet)
end of 1990s, Internatinal Symposium on Opuntia with participants from Chile, Italy, Mexico, and USA to increase researcher cooporation
used in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, USA to fend off drought effects
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Stephen G. REYNOLDSand Enrique ARIAS
some species are naturalized weeds in South Africa and Australia
O. ficus-indica in particular, and the important role they play and are likely to play in the success of sustainable agricultural systems in arid and semi-arid zones
almost 300 species of the genus Opuntia (Scheinvar, 1995). In Mexico alone, Bravo (1978) recorded 104 species and varieties
Opuntia includes 11 subgenera: Opuntia, Consolea, Austrocylindropuntia, Brasiliopuntia, Corynopuntia, Cylindropuntia, Grusonia, Marenopuntia, Nopalea, Stenopuntia and Tephrocactus.
reproduce vegetatively and sexually; and the existence of numerous hybrids, as almost all species blossom during the same period
Scheinvar (1995) mentions nine wild species of Opuntia:
O. robusta var. robusta;
O. tomentosa var. tomentosa var. herrerae
three cultivated species
O. albicarpa sp. nov.;
O. robusta var. larreyi
one culti-vated species of the subgenus Nopalea
* cactus pear - opuntia plant
* cladode - shoots or stem-like organs
* jarabe - a syrup product from the fruit
* melcocha - jam
* miel de tuna - cactus pear honey
* nocheztli - highly prized red dye obtained from the body of the cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus) living on some opuntias. Called grana cochinilla by the early Spanish in Mexico, now called cochineal
* nochtli - opuntia fruit
* nopal - opuntia plant (mainly Mexico)
* nopalitos - young cladodes used as vegetables
* nopalli - opuntia plant in Nahuatl language
* notuatl - the original Mexican word (from Aztec times) for opuntia
* prickly pear - opuntia plant
* queso de tuna - cactus pear cheese
Opuntia is particularly attractive as a feed because of its efficiency in converting water to dry matter, and thus to digestible energy (Nobel, 1995). Cactus is useful not only because it can withstand drought, but also because its conversion efficiency is greater than C3 grasses and C4 broadleaves. Biomass generation per unit of water is on average about three times higher than for C4 plants and five times higher than for C3 plants. Under optimal conditions, the various types of plants can produce similar amounts of dry matter per surface area, but under arid and semi-arid conditions, CAM plants are superior to C3 and C4 plants.
While spineless types need to be protected against herbivory, the more cold-hardy, slower growing spiny types require no such protection, although it is necessary to burn off the spines before using for livestock feed.
poor in proteins, although rich in carbohydrates and calcium.
mainly used for cattle, opuntia has also been used as forage for pigs
prevent soil erosion and to combat desertification; they have a great capacity for adaptation, growing in severely degraded soils which are inadequate for other crops
Biological control has been particularly successful in countries such as Australia and South Africa. However, the problems of developed countries are not necessarily the same as those of less developed countries, and what may be considered a weed in one country may be an important economic source of food in another. Therefore different countries and even areas within countries may view Opuntiaspp. Differently.
CACTUSNET, FAO published "Agro-ecology, cultivation and uses of cactus pear"
forage in Mexico, Brazil, USA, Chile, Argentina, Western Asia and North Africa, Ethiopia, and Southern Africa
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<P>HISTORY OF THE USE OF OPUNTIA AS FORAGE IN MEXICO
Marco Antonio ANAYA-PÉREZ
uses as a beverage, medicine, source of dye
economic importance of opuntia as forage was not perceived during the Spanish Colonial Period, or even after independence
during the colonial and post-independence eras indicate that it was used as animal feed, especially in the northern arid and semi-arid zones. Its use increased from the early 1600s with the introduction of cattle to semi-arid areas and the consequent depletion of grasslands.
second half of the twentieth century, the Government of Mexico and some educational institutions began to recognize the importance of opuntia cultivation, particularly for forage. The Colegio de Posgraduados released improved varieties to participate in a programme aimed at stopping overexploitation of wild populations of opuntia
Opuntia plantations have been promoted as a foundation of reforestation and recovery programmes
nochoctli, or pulque(a fermented drink, generally made from the sap of the century plant
De la Cruz-Badiano Codex of 1552 shows how opuntia was used to treat several ailments, cure burns: "The burned part of our body is cured with the juice of the nopalliwith which it should be rubbed on with honey and egg yolk ..." (Velázquez, 1998).
All of them are endemic to America, and of the 377 recognized species, 104 are found wild in Mexico, and 60 of these are endemic in Mexico.
Mal Paso, southwest of the city of Zacatecas, has the greatest diversity of opuntia species. In contrast, chroniclers and historians of the colonial period recounted the abundance of opuntia practically throughout the country. From the chronicles of travellers or scientific works, the present distribution includes Querétaro, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nayarit and Coahuila in Mexico, and Texas in the United States.
Pedro de Rivera, in his trip to northern New Spain at the beginning of the 18th century, reported that in the direction of San Juan del Río, Querétaro, he found thick vegetation of mesquite, guizaches (Prosopis sp.), and opuntia. In the direction of Ojuelos, Jalisco, near San Miguel El Grande, he passed through flat land with scrub vegetation of oak, mesquite and opuntia. On the border between the kingdoms of New Galicia and Nayarit, he went through rough mountains with many rocks and thick brush of mesquite, guamuchiles, guizaches and opuntia (Trabulse, 1992a).
In 1539, Friar Toribio Motolinia, describing his experiences in Michoacán, reported that in this province the tunales were abundant: "... they are trees that have leaves the thickness of fingers, some thicker and others less, as long as the foot of a man, and as wide as a hand span..." (Motolinia, 1995).
In the mid-16th century, Friar Bernardino de Sahagún wrote: "The tree called tuna has large, thick leaves, and green and thorny; this tree gives flowers on the same leaves [and] some are white, others vermilion, others yellow, and others fleshy; produced in this tree are fruits called tunas [that] are very good to eat [and] come out of the same leaves ... "(Trabulse, 1993).
Describing opuntia, Friar Bernardino de Sahagún reported: "There are trees in this land they call nopalli, which means tunal, or tree with tunas; it is a monstrous tree, the trunk is composed of leaves and the branches are made of these same leaves; the leaves are broad and thick, having juice and are viscous; the same leaves have many thorns ... The leaves of this tree are eaten raw and cooked." (Sahagún, 1997).
Friar Francisco de Ajofrín, who travelled through New Spain in the 18th century, reported that there were opuntia fruit "tunas" almost year-round. Some were white, others yellow, and some were more fleshy (Trabulse, 1992a). Miguel Venegas indicated in the 18th century that in California the red tunas are infrequent, and in New Spain they called them tunas taponas(Trabulse, 1992b).
The livestock brought from the West Indies (Cosio, 1987) by the Spaniards caused a revolution in the economy of New Spain, and immense areas previously unused by agriculture were brought into use. The livestock came from Cuba, Santo Domingo and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hernán Cortés brought the horses (11 horses and 5 mares), and Gregorio Villalobos brought cattle from Santo Domingo (Cosio, 1987).
Livestock gave agriculture a boost, providing animal traction, transport and manure.
because of the immense virgin grasslands that existed, livestock multiplied and spread from the central high plateau to the rest of New Spain during the 16th century. Although it decreased, notably in the 17th century, the numbers were so great that in many regions many wild herds were formed.
Extensive grazing of sheep and goats began, moving livestock from place to place for summer and winter grazing
* As of 1579, no fewer than 200 000 sheep from Querétaro moved 300 to 400 km during the month of September, to find fresh pastures near Lake Chapala and western Michoacan, return-ing to their ranches in May.
* The livestock from Tepeaca, Puebla, and some from the Central Plateau, wintered in pastures of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico.
* From the Huasteca, livestock went to graze on the shores of Río Verde, in San Luis Potosí.
* In 1648, more than 300 000 sheep from the mountains of New Spain were taken to the extensive plains of the Kingdom of Nuevo Leon, where they grazed for more than six months. In 1685, it is said that 555 000 head of cattle arrived (Chevalier, 1982; Humboldt, 1984).
* At the end of the 16th century, in the High and Low Mixtec regions, the indigenous people came to own 250 000 head goats and sheep. In Tlaxcala and Puebla, the communities had more than 400 000 head of sheep and goats, and the communities of Zimatlan, Oaxaca and Jilotepec, State of Mexico, together had more than 350 000 head (Rojas, 1990).
Reproduction of livestock was spontaneous, and often the owners themselves were ignorant of how many beasts they possessed
historian François Chavalier reported that in the years of drought animals died by the thousands (Chevalier, 1982).
Sources from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries state that the livestock ate grasses, stubble, maize and opuntia, among other things. In 1585, Juan González de Mendoza wrote that in the entire Kingdom of New Spain, the livestock fed on green plants and maize, which was the wheat of the Indians (Trabulse, 1993).
Chevalier (1982) reports that at the end of the 16th century, the "encomenderos" (landlords) fattened their animals with maize, which they had, in abundance, thanks to tributes.
As to the opuntia cactus used as forage, the newspaper El Nacional, of Mexico City, reported that during the colonial period there were mestizofarmers who planted opuntia in half of their farm plots to feed the animals, and in the other half they sowed maize and beans:
"... and when they judged the land to be worn out, they cut half the cactus pear as forage for the animals, especially the cattle, and the rest was planted in the agricultural land, which after two years was again used for ordinary crops, repeating the same operation of leaving the land to rest by planting cactus pear, which maintains the ground moist and magnificent grasses grow at the same time, preventing erosion of the land and providing abundant, moist, fresh grass for the livestock almost year-round (Anon., 1962).
At the end of the 19th century, massive sheep raising was conducted in the northeast of the country, especially in the states of Zacatecas, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua, where there were haciendas with 70 000 to 80 000 head of cattle head (Kaerger, 1986). Goats were abundant in Puebla, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí, while cattle were raised basically in the north of Mexico and the coastal region of Veracruz
* Nopal rastrero(creeping prickly pear): a cactus with a lateral growth form and consumed mostly by goats.
* Nopal cuyo: a thin cactus with few thorns; relished by cattle.
* Nopal cardón(O. streptacantha): a fruit species with broad pads. Its fruit is used to prepare a fermented drink, mixing it with maize grains, apples and cane alcohol. Cattle can eat it only during the dry season since in the rainy season it swells too much (Bazant, 1980).
* Nopal cegador(blinding prickly pear): Well eaten by cattle, although it can cause blindness if the thorns get into their eyes.
* Cardencheor joconostle: It has large cylindrical stems (trunk) and is preferred by livestock.
* Tasajillo: similar to the cardenchetype, but the stems are smaller and of lower quality. Goats eat its fruit (Kaerger, 1986)
newspaper article appearing in the early 20th century reported the enormous amounts of tunas of all kinds that were produced in San Luis Potosí. It points out that opuntia grew in the poorest land, in hard, cracked, alkaline soil, where there was no other sign of vegetation, far from fresh water springs, where there were more hills than flat land; this hilly land promoted cactus growth, and gave the landowner splendid profits, since they needed neither care nor expenditures of any kind.
"[The parts] of the prickly pear used are: the pads for feeding cattle, when they are fresh, and when they are dry they are magnificent fuel, and the tunas, from which a delicious fermented drink is made called colonche; also, an exquisite tuna syrup is made, as well as jams and taffy, and a liquor is also extracted from the tuna ... " (Márquez, 1986)
huapile, a bromeliad which covers large areas
Agave lechuguilla is very nutritious, although it has the disadvantage of inducing the animals to become wild, as they need not drink water because of the juiciness of the leaves (Kaerger, 1986).
Government interest in development of the arid zones, which accounted for 40% of the national territory, led to creation of the National Commission for Arid Zones (CONAZA) in 1970
CONAZA proposed a programme to grow and use wild plants such as opuntia, candelilla (Euphorbia antisiphylitica), lechuguilla (Agave lecheguilla), fibre yucca (Yucca filifera), and mesquite (Prosopis juliflora). According to a preliminary study of the 1970 census, over 50% of the cattle and sheep and almost 80% of the goats existing in the country were in arid zones. In these zones, opuntia became vital, because it provided some food and water for the animals (Villarreal, 1958).
Although during the first half of the 20th century there were numerous species of wild opuntia, they began to disappear, mostly because of the excessive removal by merchants to supply foreign markets. Laws were passed to prohibit its export, but today the commerce in opuntia continues in different forms, with the consequent disappearance of some species (Granados and Castañeda, 1991).
In 1966, 600 tonne of opuntia were used daily in feeding stabled dairy cattle in Monterrey, Nuevo León, and 100 tonne daily in Saltillo, Coahuila (Granados and Castañeda, 1991). Cattle and, above all, grazing goats and sheep, consume opuntia almost all year. The shepherd burns off the thorns from the pads that he selects, although sometimes the standing plants are singed (Flores and Aguirre, 1979).
The Ministry of Agriculture promoted opuntia plantations for forage in many regions. The gathering of opuntia for forage was banned in the states of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, and industrialization promoted.
Reduction of the opuntia populations obliged the Ministry of Agriculture to set up a Programme for Genetic Improvement of Prickly Pear in 1961, at the Graduate College of the National School of Agriculture. The goal was to increase fruit production and improve cattle feeding
Opuntia is not considered a regular forage crop and statistics on planted area and production were not reported until 1984, and then with little accuracy. 22 ha in 1984, rising to 422 ha in 1997 (SARH, 1984 to 1989; SAGAR, 1990 to 1997).
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<P>ECOPHYSIOLOGY OF OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA
Park S. NOBEL
Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM)
much higher water use efficiency
CAM plants tend to lose only 20 to 35% as much water as do C3 or C4 plants for a given degree of stomatal opening.
waxy cuticle on its stems is relatively thick, generally 5 to 30 µm (Conde, 1975; Pimienta-BarRíos et al., 1992, 1993; North et al., 1995)
roots of O. ficus-indicatend to be shallow with mean depths near 15 cm, facilitating a quick response to light rainfall. For instance, it can form new roots within 24 hours of wetting of a dry soil (Kausch, 1965). Its various water-conserving strategies lead to a need for a small root system; indeed, roots compose only about 12% of the total plant biomass for O. ficus-indica(Nobel, 1988)
plants are acclimatized to high day/night air temperatures of 50°C/40°C, their chlorenchyma cells are not seriously injured by 1 hour at 60°C, and most cells survive 1 hour at 65°C (Nobel, 1988). Indeed, high-temperature damage for O. ficus-indicain the field is generally only observed near the soil surface, where temperatures in deserts can reach 70°C; young plants or newly planted cladodes are especially vulnerable to injury. In contrast, cell injury in the field occurs at freezing temperatures of -5°C to -10°C. Damage varies with the cultivar (Russell and Felker, 1987b),
growth in sandy loam is about 25% of maximal at a nitrogen content of 0.03% by dry mass, 50% of maximal at 0.07% N, 75% of maximal at 0.15% N, and approaches maximal near 0.3% N (Nobel, 1989a).
Although N is generally the major limiting nutrient, growth of opuntias usually is also stimulated by phosphorus and potassium fertilization (Nobel, 1989b). A soil level of only 5 parts per million by dry mass (ppm) P leads to half-maximal growth for O. ficus-indica(Nobel, 1989b)
[to be effective cattle feed needs to be at least 2% Nitrogen dry matter and soil with more than 5 ppm Phosphorus dry mass]
O. ficus-indicais sensitive to soil salinity. Inhibition of growth is often linear with sodium content, with 150 ppm Na leading to approximately 50% inhibition of biomass accumulation by O. ficus-indica (Nobel, 1989b). Its roots are more affected by salinity than are its shoots; e.g. watering with 60 millimolar (mM) NaCl (about 12% of the salinity of seawater) for six months reduces root growth by 84% and shoot growth by 50% (Berry and Nobel, 1985). Exposing the entire root system of O. ficus-indicato 100 mM NaCl for 10 weeks reduces root growth by 38% (Nerd et al., 1991) but after only 4 weeks, growth of a single root exposed to 100 mM NaCl can be reduced by 93% (Gersani et al., 1993)
aboveground-dry-mass productivity by O. ficus-indicain the field is 37-40% higher for a doubled CO2 level versus the current CO2 level (Nobel and Israel, 1994).
similar results occur for other opuntias and other CAM plants (Nobel, 1988, 1994).
Opuntia amycleacan have a high annual biomass productivity of 45 t dry mass/ha/yr at an optimal SAI and under irrigation in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico (Nobel et al., 1992; actually, species status for O. amycleais uncertain but it is morphologically distinct from O. ficus-indica).
Agave mapisagaand A. salmiana, have high biomass productivities, averaging 40 t/ha/yr (Nobel et al., 1992). In comparison, the four highest-yielding C3 crops have an average productivity of 38 t/ha/yr, the four fastest-growing C3 trees average 41 t/ha/yr, and the four highest-yielding C4 crops average 56 t/ha/yr (Nobel, 1991a).
agaves and opuntias have a higher WUE [water use efficiency], leading to a higher biomass productivity per unit ground area than do C3 or C4 plants under the same conditions (Nobel, 1994).
Agaves and other cacti also have other ecophysiological responses similar to those for O. ficus-indica(Nobel, 1988, 1994). For instance, net CO2 uptake, growth and biomass productivity respond favourably to N fertilization, and generally also to P and K fertilization, and nearly all species are inhibited by increasing soil salinity (Nobel, 1989b).
A doubling of the current CO2 level leads to about 50% more biomass for Agave salmianaover 4.5 months (Nobel et al., 1996) and nearly 90% more biomass for Agave deserti over 17 months (Graham and Nobel, 1996). Doubling the atmospheric CO2 level for A. desertiincreases daily net CO2 uptake per unit leaf area by 49% while reducing daily transpiration by 24%, leading to a 110% higher WUE. As for O. ficus-indica, other commercial CAM plants are also sensitive to freezing temperatures, but highly tolerant of high temperatures (Nobel, 1988). For instance, -8°C for 1 hour had similar deleterious effects on chlorenchyma cells of A. salmianaand O. ficus-indica(Nobel, 1996).
O. ficus-indicacan have a WUE that is 3 to 5 times higher than for C3 and C4 species
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<P>GERMPLASM RESOURCES AND BREEDING OPUNTIA FOR FODDER PRODUCTION
Candelario MONDRAGÓN-JACOBOand Salvador PÉREZ-GONZÁLEZ
low-density populations scattered across northern Mexico
thorns on the most productive and high quality fruit cultivars
Natural hybridization of opuntia is common
Asexual reproduction is an adaptive answer to the low germination rates and seed predation found in this group (Del Castillo, 1999)
Opuntia flowers are also capable of self-pollination, and bagged flowers are able to set fruit (Nerd and Mizrahi, 1994).
self-pollination is also confirmed in commercial orchards, where large blocks of a single cultivar set fruits and seeds without the apparent need for special pollinating varieties, as reported by Damigella (cited by Nerd and Mizrahi, 1995, and Mondragón, 1999).
Opuntia flowers are hermaphrodite
forage in northern Mexico. Fuentes (1991) and Flores and Aranda (1997) reported the use of 10-18 species, 15 of which are platyopuntias. O. streptacantha,O. Megacantha, O. leucotricha, O. robusta, O. rastrera, O. lindheimeri, O. engelmannii, O. cantabrigiensis, O. macrocentra andO. phaeacanthaare the most important regarding abundance, distribution and preference by ranchers. The most frequently used are O. engelmanniiand O. lindheimeri(De la Cruz, 1994) [all thorny]
individuals with smooth pads are predated by rodents during the juvenile phase
obnoxious species harmful to livestock, like O. mycrodasys (or blinding prickly pear, named after the damage caused by the numerous glochids) are consumed when other species become scarce (De la Cruz, 1994).
The utilization of whole plants to feed cattle is endangering wild populations of opuntia in northern Mexico. Too often, they are completely uprooted to increase the collected volume and monetary income, severely diminishing the chances for recovery. The problem cannot be solved easily because the plants are harvested to be utilized in suburban dairy operations, far away from the native locations and benefiting other users, besides the landlords
Backyard orchards containing opuntia are commonly seen in semi-arid central Mexico
Plants in the yard represent feedstuff readily available for domestic livestock during the dry season. Spineless genotypes are preferred for easier handling. [in backyards/orchards]
family orchards are the best sites to find individuals of sexual as well as clonal origin growing in close vicinity.
Cvs CPF1, CPF2 and CPF3 were selected for fodder production, and cv. CPV1 for vegetable use (Barrientos, 1965a, b), but all belong to O. ficus-indica
COPENA F1 or cv. CPF1 produces long, thin, green pads, excellent for human consumption when tender. The fruits of this cultivar are light green, with thin pericarp and a slight blush. Under rainfed conditions, at least one flush of pads per growing season is produced. Cv. CPV1 is a vegetable cultivar whose mature pads can also be used for fodder.
Cv. Pabellón has ovoid, thick, dark green pads; adult plants produce red tasty fruits similar to the fruits obtained from cv. Roja Lisa, a fruit cultivar.
Cvs ANF1 and ANV1, Universidad Autónoma Agraria Antonio Narro (UAAAN). Described as spineless and suitable for fodder production, Northern Mexico,
Northeast Brazil is the most important growing area for fodder opuntia in the world. Cvs 'Palma Gigante' and'Palma Redonda'(both O. ficus-indicaMill.) are widely cultivated in dry areas. Together with cv. 'Palma Miuda'(Nopalea cochinellifera Salm-Dick), which tolerates more humid conditions
'IPA-Clone 20'was selected from open pollinated seeds of Palma Gigante (O. ficus-indicaMill.). In field trials, IPA-Clone 20 produced 50% more fodder than the maternal entry (Arruda and Warumby, 1999).
O. ficus-indicais believed to have been introduced to South Africa at least 250 years ago (Zimmerman and Moran, 1991), giving this country the oldest record of opuntia introduced as a fodder crop. Modern introduction started in 1914, including 22 entries: 19 green "leafed" and three blue "leafed"
selections Robusta, Monterey and Chico, described as blue-leafed spineless cultivars (probably O. robusta
Robusta and Monterrey are highly productive, while Chico presents some cold resistance. All spineless or 'Burbank' opuntias bear tiny bristles (glochids) around areoles and on the fruit surface (Brutsch and Zimmerman, 1990).
A fresh start at breeding is underway in Italy, Mexico, South Africa and USA
Texas A&M University, Kingsville, (TAMUK) has been involved since 1982 in collection and introduction of opuntia to the USA, as well as agronomic research and extension. The programme focuses on the development of freeze-tolerant cultivars, as chill damage is a common problem in the region (Wang et al., 1997).
Cv. Spineless 1308 (an accession originally collected in the humid tropical region of Tamazunchale, Mexico) has been extremely successful among growers and consumers.
The most important opuntia cultivars are generally irreversibly injured at temperatures of -5 to -10°C (Russell and Felker, 1987b; Nobel and Loik, 1993)
O. fragilis(Nutt.) Haworth and O. humifusa(Rafinesque), both native to Canada, can tolerate temperatures below -20°C when properly acclimatized (Nobel and Loik, 1993)
Cold tolerance is an important feature for opuntia production (fruit as well as forage) in the southern USA, where freezing temperatures occur occasionally (Parish and Felker, 1997). Susceptibility to freezing is the primary factor limiting the expansion of opuntia as fodder and forage in cattle-producing areas of the USA. Russell and Felker (1987b) reported that O. ellisianain Texas endured -9°C without apparent damage, while fruit and fodder accessions from Brazil, Chile, Mexico and South Africa presented different degrees of frost damage. The South African spineless fodder cultivars were the least affected.
A key issue in cold hardiness is the length of the onset period of freezing temperatures, as noted by Gregory et al. (1993). In Opuntia,the lack of freeze hardiness is probably not due to the lack of tolerance to cold temperatures per se, but the range of day to night temperatures, from 28°C down to -12°C in a single day in Texas, which does not allow the plant to properly acclimatize and express cold tolerance.
Parish and Felker (1997) found several promising clones in their experimental orchard at Kingsville, Texas, an area with recurrent frost and low temperatures of about -12°C. Clone 1436, obtained from Saltillo, Mexico, was found to have high yield and good fruit quality. Two other clones, 1452 and 1458, collected in northern Mexico from areas in the highlands exposed to late frosts and light snow cover, are also promising.
(O. lindheimeriand O. ellisiana have been observed to tolerate -20°C)
O. robusta typically does not tolerate frost, as observed in Texas with cvs 'Robusta,''Monterey' and' Chico,'none of which tolerated a -12 C frost registered in 1989 (Felker, 1995).
The lowest [protein] value was observed in O. rastrera(2.8%) compared to 5.1% recorded in O. ficus-indica.
Wild cochineal (Dactilopius coccusCosta) and stinky bugs (Chelinidae tabulata) seem to prefer some spiny cultivars (Mondragón, pers. observation). Soft black rot (Erwinia sp.) is a serious disease affecting forage and vegetable plantations in Italy, Mexico and other countries, and there are no reports of tolerance among commercial varieties.
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<P>PRODUCTION AND USE OF OPUNTIA AS FORAGE IN NORTHERN MEXICO
Juan José LÓPEZ-GARCÍA, Jesús Manuel FUENTES-RODRÍGUEZand R.A. RODRÍGUEZ
in northern Mexico, where Opuntiais abundant and widely distributed in large thickets called nopaleras. It is represented by 104 species, 60% located in the Chihuahuan desert. The most important species for forage use are: Opuntia leucotricha, O. streptacantha, O. robusta, O. cantabrigiensis, O. rastrera, O.lindheimeri andO. phaeacantha (Bravo, 1978; Elizondo et al., 1987)
A. Central-southern zone. This includes parts of the states of Puebla, Querétaro and Oaxaca, and is characterized by tree types cultivated in nopaleras and producing tender pads (nopalitos), fruits (tunas) and forage. Species are mainly O. ficus-indica (nopal de Castilla), O. amyclaea(nopal alfajayucan), with several cultivated varieties (Barrientos, 1972), O. megacantha (tuna amarilla) and O. tomentosa.
B. High plateau zone. This lies mainly in the states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí, but includes also parts of Aguascalientes, Durango, Guanajuato and Jalisco. It includes tree-type vegetation of O. leucotricha (nopal duraznillo) and O. streptacantha (nopal cardón), as well as shrubby plants of O. robusta (nopal tapón), O. cantabrigiensis(nopal cuijo),O. rastrera (nopal rastrero), O. lindheimeri (nopal cacanapo) and O. leptocaulis (nopal tasajillo).
C. North zone in the Chihuahuan desert is the largest region, and includes the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas and Coahuila. It is represented by shrub vegetation of O. cantabrigiensis, O. phaeacantha (nopal rastrero), O. lindheimeri andO. Rastrera.
D. Coastal zone of the Gulf of Mexico. This covers parts of the states of Coahuila, northern Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. Shrubby plants of O. lindheimeriare found associated with other forage species: O. leptocaulis, O. microdasys(nopal cegador),O. imbricata andO. rastrera to a lesser extent.
states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí, and to a lesser extent over Aguascalientes, Durango, Jalisco and Guanajuato. This area is threatened by serious desertification.
widely appreciated for forage: aciculata, lindheimeri, subarmataand tricolor.
Wild, Yield ranges from 25 to 125 t/ha, depending upon the species, plant vigour, climate, soil fertility and management system. The yield value assumes that 75-80% of aboveground biomass is usually harvested. The recovery period is strongly dependent on rainfall and intensity of usage.
Well-tended nopaleras planted with 2500 plants per hectare can produce above 100 t/ha after the fifth year of planting. Recorded yield for the seventh year is 160 t/ha. Sustainable production is accomplished by harvesting every other row annually. However, in general, plantations are poorly managed and average yield varies from 5 to 15 t/ha after the fifth year of planting.
Propagation. The source for planting material should be 1-4 years old, collected from healthy and vigorous plants. Cladodes are cut at the joint with a sharp knife, the base disinfected with Bordeaux mixture (1 kg of copper sulphate, 1 kg calcium hydroxide and 100 litre of water) and allowed to air-dry in the shade for a week. Cladode bruising should be avoided.
Soil preparationFor extensive plantings, cladodes are deposited directly in shallow holes dug in the field without disturbing natural vegetation. Depending upon the slope, it might be necessary to build terraces or individual micro-catchments. Once the plants are well established, surrounding vegetation shading the plants could be eliminated or pruned back. Under intensive planting systems, regular soil preparation practices (ploughing and contour furrowing) should be performed before transplanting the cladodes.
Transplanting Under dry conditions during the spring in the Chihuahuan desert, it is highly recommended to transplant after the first summer rain. However, if additional water for irrigation is available, planting could be performed any time, but late fall seems to be the best time of year to allow plant rooting previous to budbreak.
The best planting material is a cutting with two cladodes, burying 50 to 75% of the basal cladode. If planting material is in short supply, then single-cladode cuttings can be used. Based on the authors' experience, row orientation has not proved to be important for initial plant development in the field.
Planting density Using 2 500 plants/ha it is possible to produce 100 t/ha in the fifth and 160 t/ha in the seventh year of transplanting. If densities are increased up to 40 000 plants/ha under fertile soils and intensive management practices, such as irrigation and fertilization, yields may reach 400 t/ha (Barrientos, 1972). However, actual yields in the arid regions of Coahuila are very low, ranging from 5 to 15 t/ha
Management practicesCare during the first two years involves only the elimination of cladodes growing too close together, which can be used for human consumption (while still tender) or for animal feeding. Although it is not common, in some nopaleras fruit production is allowed to satisfy family needs or demand from local markets. Under these circumstances, a more conservative pruning method is practised, leaving a few more one-year-old cladodes where some fruits will develop during the following season.
Singeing and chopping in situ. The cladodes are harvested and spines burned with firewood or gas torch. Then they are chopped and offered to animals.
A specific case is opuntia harvesting for suburban dairy operations. The plants are harvested whole and transported to stables, where they are burned and chopped.
estimated that cattle can consume from 15 to 40 kg of fresh cladodes/day/beast, but under drier conditions they might consume up to 90 kg if cladodes are abundant, while sheep and goats consume between 3 and 9 kg/day. During the rainy season, daily consumption may decrease if other sources of food, such as grasses, are available.
Water content. Opuntia is one of the main water sources for animals in the semi-arid north
Morrison (1956) reported digestibility values as fibre, 40%; crude fat, 72%; protein, 44%; and nitrogen-free extract (NFE), 78%, while Murillo et al. (1994) studied the influence on opuntia digestibility of yeast supplemented with two sources of nitrogen. When yeast is added to Opuntia, digestibility was 61.6%; if ammonium sulphate was combined with yeast, digestibility increased to 93.9%. Adding yeast and urea, digestibility reached 76.8%.
Griffiths (1905), Meat production, 55 kg of opuntia combined with 2.5 kg of cornmeal were required to produce 1.0 kg of meat
Experiences reported from Brazil concluded that 60% of the total energy requirements could be supplied by opuntia. Increasing the protein provision (from cotton meal and mamona(Melicoccus bijugatus)) or providing molasses did not improve liveweight gain of animals of Zebu, Indobrasil and Guzerat breeds (Viana et al., 1965). Diarrhoea caused by excess opuntia fodder was successfully controlled by providing sorghum stover at the rate of 0.75 to 1.3 kg/animal/day.
In a study conducted by Fuentes (1991) on seven sites in Coahuila, 685 animals grazing freely and supplemented with maize stover, molasses and urea were also fed with 10 to 20 kg/day of burned-chopped opuntia. Daily animal gain ranged from 0.1 to 0.6 kg. Opuntia provided 7.8% of total maintenance energy, 20.6% of the protein, 50% of phosphorous and 100% of the calcium requirements recommended by the NRC (1984).
Since the early 1900s, most suburban areas in Northern Mexico provide milk to large cities, and cows are fed with opuntia as a supplement to the regular diet. The belief is that opuntia-based supplement increases not only milk production, but also improves quality of butter in terms of consistency and storage life, as well as adding an attractive "golden" colour to the finished product (Griffiths, 1905; Cottier, 1934; D´Arces, 1941; Aguilar, 1946; Blanco, 1958; Calvino, 1952; González et al.,1998).
However, González et al. (1998) reported that milk production in Holstein cows decreased with the rate of Opuntiain the diet. Therefore, they recommend using only 20 to 30% (on a dry matter basis) and supplementation with alfalfa hay, oats and sorghum to obtain a good balance between production costs and returns.
Daily Opuntia consumption in southern Coahuila (Fuentes, 1991) and Nuevo Leòn (Fuentes, 1992), ranges between 20-30 and 25-40 kg/cow, respectively. It was estimated that in such conditions Opuntia provided 4.5% of the total energy required for suckling, 12.2% of the proteins, 46% of crude fibre, 15% of phosphorous and 100% of calcium compared to the recommended requirements (NRC, 1984).
Under a free pasture consumption system in the field, sheep consume less opuntia than goats, but when fed with burned-chopped Opuntia, their consumption reaches about 3-5 kg/day
Other studies abroad report bovines being fed for 400 days exclusively on an opuntia diet without watering, without serious side effects (Rossouw, 1961). While in South Africa, reports indicate up to 525 days (Havard, 1969; Terblanche et al., 1971). Although there is not a real increase in weight, animals are saved from starvation.
consumption of opuntia by sheep is associated with an improvement in the quality of the wool, attributed to an increase in the lanolin content, as reported by Ríos (1954) and Revuelta (1963). The effect was observed with a daily consumption of 7 kg/animal in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leòn (Rios, 1954) and up to 9 to 10 kg in other regions (De Klerk, 1960)
In northern Mexico, goats browse freely and feed on Opuntiaall year round, but rely more on the cactus from late autumn to late spring. Daily consumption ranges from 3 to 9 kg/day in the open field, and up to 11 kg when they are housed.
most commonly used species to feed goats in northern Mexico include O. leucotricha, O. streptacantha, O. robusta, O. cantabrigiensis, O. rastrera, O. lindheimeri, O. imbricata, O. microdasysand O. leptocaulis. All of these species used as forage sources have abundant spines, which are hard, large and have abundant glochids (ahuates), which can cause serious problems to eyes and mouth of domestic animals feeding on them.
Opuntia is extremely important for wildlife, probably even more than for domestic animals, supporting the rich fauna of the Chihuahua desert.
A few decades ago, opuntia was collected at distances up to 20 km away from urban areas, while now it is necessary to transport plants from distances exceeding 100 km (Marroquin et al., 1964).
Production systems practised today destroy vegetation and accelerate the desertification process
it is very important to implement re-vegetation projects that include several important native species, such as Opuntia, Agave, Prosopis, Acacia, Mimosa and others.
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<P>OPUNTIA AS FODDER IN THE SEMI-ARID NORTHEAST OF BRAZIL
Djalma CORDEIRO DOSSANTOSand Severino GONZAGA DEALBUQUERQUE
probably it was introduced in the 18th Century, from the Canary Islands, to raise the cochineal insect (Dactilopius cactiL.) for dye production (Pessoa, 1967). After losing competitiveness, dye production died out, and both species of opuntia (Opuntia ficus-indica(L.) Miller and Nopalea cochenilliferaSalm-Dyck) became ornamental plants.
Opuntia was used as fodder after 1915 (Pessoa, 1967) and due to the great 1932 drought, the federal government established many propagation plots (Duque, 1973)
cultivated in the semi-arid northeast, mainly by the dairy cattle ranchers, and the largest cropping areas are found in the States of Alagoas, Pernambuco and Paraíba
regional variation in precipitation, ranging from 300 to 750 mm/yr
40 000 plants/ha were recommended for biennial harvests. If plantings are expected to be harvested after three or more years, the authors recommend 20 000 plants/ha, but both densities can be combined: the higher density will be harvested biennially, whereas the lower density will be spared as a "live" (left growing in the field) strategic reserve for use during dry years.
productivity is almost doubled by applying 20 t/ha of cattle manure every second year.
Small-scale ranchers do not value the manure enough for its fertilizer value, giving it away or selling it at low prices to vegetable growers. Manure is used in other countries, such as North Africa (Monjauze and Le Houérou, 1965), USA (Gregory and Felker, 1992), in Chile for fruit production (Tironi-Compiano and Zuñiga-Oliver, 1983), and in Mexico (Mondragón and Pimienta, 1990). Carneiro and Viana (1992) found that highest efficiency occurs when it is spread in furrows before planting.
Becerra-Rodríguez et al. (1976) reported a higher productivity if cladodes were planted facing east-west. Light intensity in Mexico is lower than in northeast Brazil.
Intercropping is a way to increase land use efficiency.
in Ceará State (SUDENE, 1972), various crops were intercropped with perennial cotton (Gossypium hirsutumL. var. Marie-Galante), and opuntia promoted an additional net income of ca. 31% compared to cotton as sole crop. Albuquerque and Rao (1997) found that cowpea decreased opuntia production by 40% in the first triennial harvest, but in the second harvest, there was an increase of 20%, giving a final decrease of 20% in the mean of two harvests. The legume grain helped to compensate for the weed control costs. Intercropping with grain sorghum reduced opuntia production by 40%, but crop residues compensated for the loss of fodder from opuntia.
cladode denomination proposed by Santos et al. (1990a) uses "base cladode" (the one that was planted); 1st order cladode; 2nd order cladode; and so on. Silva et al. (1974) found that leaving all 2nd order cladodes on each plant, nopalera recuperation was faster, and productivity more constant through the harvests. In contrast, much fodder is left on field when 2nd order cladodes are spared. So the authors recommend leaving all 1st order cladodes, and for each plant, to leave only one 2nd order cladode. By doing so, nopalera recuperation is reasonably fast, while less fodder is left on field. Leaving only 1st order cladodes is an option that must also be considered. Cuttings should be done on the joints
Northeastern Brazil by three varieties, which from now on will be referred to as cultivars, namely cv. Gigante, cv. Redonda (both O. ficus-indica), and cv. Miúda (N. cochenillifera)
Cvs Gigante and Redonda are cultivated in drier zones and on poor soils, whereas Miúda grows in more humid areas with better soils.
IPA-Clone 20 was superior, producing 50% more than Gigante
The world's largest areas of cultivated opuntia are in the semi-arid northeast of Brazil, with O. ficus-indica predominating. It is a region with an annual average rainfall of 600 mm
According to Nobel (1995), the ideal day/night temperatures for opuntia are 25/15°C
solve the opuntia high-temperature problem in the Sertão zone of the northeast, it was hypothesized that shading by mesquite could create a micro-environment inside the nopalera, and help increase production. Coelho and Godoi (1964) found that shaded opuntia became more turgid, but there was no production increase. Alves (1976) in Paraíba Cariri " a zone with high day temperature but cool (18°C) nights " found that shading gave a 56% increase in production from cv. Miúda. With cv. Gigante, the 18% increase promoted by shading was not significant. Mesquite trees planted at 15 ×15 m (44.4 plants/ha) do not provide the necessary shading effect, but the fence pole and vine yield that might result could justify such intercropping (Table 9). [12-15 m spacing is best]
main diseases reported in Pernambuco and Alagoas are: cladode rot caused by various fungi (Lasiodiplodia theobromae, Sclerotium rolfsii, Scytalidium lignicola, Fusarium solani, Rhizoctonia solani, Macrophominasp. and Pollaciasp.). Pollaciasp. was reported by Franco and Ponte (1980). Of bacterial diseases, only soft rot (Erwiniasp.) has been reported. These diseases currently do not cause severe damage to the crop, probably due to the traditional cropping system in the northeast. However, crop expansion and dense plantings might contribute to higher incidences and severity of diseases. There are no effective control measures, except planting in the dry season before the onset of the rainy season to avoid rot in the cuttings.
Weed control is the main factor influencing opuntia production costs. In USA, Felker and Russell (1988) tested herbicides on 30 clones and found a ninefold increase in opuntia production with Hexazinone (8 kg/ha) compared to the control.
expensive fodder, being produced at an estimated cost of US$ 0.05/kg DM
Table 10. Cost of establishment of 1 ha of opuntia at four spacings [pdf 56]
1979-83 drought proved that opuntia's high water content was vital to livestock raising. In Paraíba Cariri and in Pernambuco Agreste, in long-term droughts, the authors observed ranchers feeding opuntia in the trough all year round
It has been shown that Holstein cows lost weight when fed on opuntia cv. Gigante as the only fodder (Santana et al., 1972) or when it comprises more than 73% of the fodder (Santos et al., 1990b)
diarrhoea common in animals fed with large quantities of opuntia, as occurred in this research. Santos et al. (1990b) state that to overcome this problem, opuntia should not exceed 40% of total feed DM.
* Opuntia is the only forage that can be stored 'live' as it keeps growing in the field without losing nutritive value, even though it has low DM and protein contents. Droughts have proved that it is a vital fodder to the region.
* It is an expensive forage because establishment, weed control and transportation to yards requires high labour inputs, but herbicides and mechanization might decrease production costs.
* Opuntia is deficient in protein, but at the same time is rich in soluble carbohydrates, and its DM digestibility is above 70%. Diarrhoea is a problem that might be related to high levels of some minerals, but further research is needed in this area
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<P>UTILIZATION OF OPUNTIAFOR FORAGE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Civil War (ca1850), freighters loaded with cotton were pulled by oxen to the only safe port of export at the southern tip of Texas (Brownsville). The route passed through extensive stands of spiny opuntias. The teamsters scorched the cactus by burning with brush, and chopped or slashed it with an axe, spade or machete to feed their oxen (Griffiths, 1905). Because of the high water content of the cactus, the oxen needed to drink water only once weekly in winter, and two to three times weekly in summer.
early twentieth century, pressurized, backpack "white gasoline" pear burners were used in Texas to singe the spines from opuntia so that the cattle could eat it (Pluenneke, 1990). Kerosene became available in the 1930s and replaced white gasoline. In the 1950s, butane gas became available in Texas and was then used in single-backpack pear burners and in rigs with multiple hoses, supplied by large tanks in pick-up trucks.
As early as 1905, Griffiths (1905) reported that opuntia had been succesfully fed to dairy and beef cattle, oxen, sheep and pigs (extreme care being taken to remove all the spines), but not to horses. However, Argentine farmers state that when opuntia is fed to pregnant sows, they abort. Lukefarh and Ruiz (1998)
sheep and goats begin eating first the fruits, then the cladodes without the spines being burned off. As a result, spines and glochids become lodged in their gastrointestinal tracts and bacterial infections of the lesions may follow (Merrill et al.,1980; Migaki et al., 1969).
Spineless opuntia plantations in Texas must be very well protected against herbivores such as rabbits, rats, deer and peccaries, using a 2.4-m tall netwire fence with a 5-cm mesh band at the bottom
"pear burner" in Texas
A study in Texas measured all the water inputs to cactus and the corresponding dry matter production (Han and Felker, 1997). Of the 662 mm of rainfall input, 143 mm was lost to runoff, 214 mm was lost to soil evaporation, and 17 mm stored in the plant. The resulting 285 mm left for growth of Opuntia ellisiana resulted in 17 670 kg of dry weight/ha for a water use efficiency of 162 kg of water/kg of dry matter. This water use efficiency is greater than that measured in the field for any C3 or C4 plant and thus emphasizes the basic physiological advantage of CAM plants in arid regions. It is also significant that the fourth-year fresh weight growth of 194 200 kg/ha contained 170 000 kg/ha of water, that would greatly reduce the water needs for livestock in drought periods. At the rate of 45 kg fresh cactus per day (discussed later), this 194 200 kg/ha would be sufficient for 4 315 days (11.8 years) of feed per cow
Typical values for nutritional components in these studies were found to be: moisture content, 85-90%; crude protein, 5-12%; phosphorus, 0.08-0.18%; calcium, 4.2%; potassium, 2.3%; magnesium, 1.4%; energy, 2.6 Mcal/kg; carotenoids 29 µg/100 g; and ascorbic acid, 13 mg/100 g.
often the only source of green forage in the dry season capable of providing vitamin A precursors
although O. lindheimerihad one of the lowest protein contents (6%), it had the highest dry matter digestibility (76%)
Maltsberger (1993, pers. comm.) stressed that the mineral deficiencies in his animals were not directly caused by the cactus, but were a result of the fact that during droughts cattle often have no other source of minerals and vitamins than cactus. Thus in drought periods, when no other significant quantities of forage are available for many months, it is critical to address the issue of lack of proteins and minerals
González (1989) found that crude protein in O. lindheimeriincreased from 4.5% for the zero fertility treatment to 10.5% for the treatment containing 224 kg N and 112 kg P/ha
it is also possible that inoculation of cactus roots with the free living, nitrogen-fixing bacteria Azospirillumsp. could increase the protein content of the cladodes, since Rao and Venkateswarlu (1982), Caballero-Mellado (1990) and Mascarua-Esparza et al. (1988) found this bacterium could associate with opuntia roots. While these authors did not demonstrate N fixation from the Azospirillumin association with cactus roots, Mascarua-Esparza et al. (1988) did report a 34% increase in cactus root dry weight and a 63% increase in root N content with Azospirilluminoculation. Azospirilluminoculation may also help control the rotting of cladodes caused by Erwiniasp. that is often associated with new plantings, since laboratory culture studies have shown that Azospirilluminhibited the growth of both Xanthomonas and Erwinia.
Cactus cladodes should either be dried in the shade for several days to allow the cut surface to "heal over," or the new cladodes treated with lime/copper sulphate solution to control bacterial rots. The soil should be ploughed and cultivated as for any other crop. Cladodes should be planted with about 1/3 of their height below the soil surface, with the flat cladode surface facing east-west.
important to provide good weed control until the cactus is well established.
Argentina, horses are admitted to the spineless cactus plantations as they will eat most forage but not the cactus
Texas, by purchasing propane in large truck loads (40 000 litre/truck), it has been possible to purchase propane for US$ 0.11/litre. In a good stand of native O. lindheimeri,one man, using an 8-litre propane tank and a propane torch, can burn enough cactus to feed 100-200 head of cattle per day, using 1.0 to 1.3 litre of propane/animal (Maltsberger, 1989). To avoid overcooking the cactus, only enough flame should be used to burn the spines from both sides of the plant. Maltsberger also recommended burning more cactus than is actually needed to last until the next feeding and to not overutilize the resource, by leaving at least one joint above the ground uncooked.
[Can be cut in place and transported small distance to animals. Singe and chop before feeding.]
Mexico, the spines were not burned off, but merely passed through the chopper before being fed to dairy cattle (Felker, unpub. obs.).
cattle quickly become acquainted with the sound of the propane burner and can be drawn for up to 700 m in the brush to the sound of a propane burner. This conditioning to the sound of the propane burner allows cattle to be drawn into corrals and pens
thornless opuntia varieties are not as cold hardy as spiny forms
f freezing water is not a concern (minimum temperatures no lower than -5°C for a few hours), the Brazilian forage variety #1270 is specially promising as it was found to have rapid growth and nearly 10% crude protein versus 6 to 9% protein for other varieties (Gregory and Felker, 1992)
compared by farmers to "hay in the barn," with up to 200 ton/ha of fresh weight. Several hectares of cactus can provide a considerable reserve of animal feed during drought periods. Unlike hay stored in the barn, the cactus in the fields does not deteriorate in quality with storage and there are no problems with rats eating the hay in storage
By consuming 40 kg of cactus per day - containing about 85% water - cattle are also consuming 35 litres of water per day, which can be beneficial in drought periods.
Opuntia has great potential for increasing production in average rainfall years, and to provide a critical reserve of forage for animals in severe drought years.
Table 22 protein supplement for droughts [pdf 64]
Table 23 mineral supplement all year [pdf 64]
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<P>OPUNTIA AS FEED FOR RUMINANTS IN CHILE
Coquimbo, northeast Chile, annual records show dry matter yields of 3 t/ha in a rainy year and less than 0.2 t/ha in a dry year.
productivity of cultivated opuntia is generally below 10 t/ha/year worldwide, although it can reach 20 t/ha/year
Utilization of opuntia for livestock feeding is an old practice in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Sicily (Italy); South Africa, Tunisia, the southern USA, and other countries (Santana, 1992
low digestibility, which could be overcome by cutting the material into small portions to facilitate its ingestion, by including other ingredients in the ration (like straw), and by utilizing two- to three-year-old plants, since younger plants are more laxative, as are older (>4 year) plants (INIF, 1983)
Opuntia does not adapt to zones with extreme temperatures. In their place of origin - the highlands of Mexico - temperatures seldom reach +40°C or -10°C (Felker, 1995). The best temperatures for opuntia production range between 18 and 26°C, although some species can tolerate temperatures as high as 40°C and as low as -8°C. It grows in zones with annual precipitation of 200 to 250 mm, but the limits to commercial production are around 450 mm/yr (Pimienta, 1995)
Planting is done in furrows (De Koch, 1998). Rows are usually laid out 2 to 6 m apart and cladodes are planted 1 to 2 m apart. Depending on the purpose, planting density may vary from 850 to 5 000 plants/ha.
Brazil, Santana (1992) reported a range of fresh weight yields from 106.9 to 205.0 t/ha/yr (approximately 16 to 31 t DM/ha/yr)
In Chile, yields of cladodes have ranged from 13 t DM/ha/year in crops that only covered 30% of the land, to 40 t DM/ha/year in simulated conditions of high planting density, optimum watering and good fertilization. Average yields of 8 t/ha in non-irrigated lands of the central zone of Chile have been reported by García de Cortázar and Nobel (1990) and Riveros et al. (1990).
Crude protein content decreases (5 to 3% dry matter) and crude fibre increases (9 to 20% dry matter) with cladode age (1 to 5 years)
Tunisia, Nefzaoui and Ben Salem (1998) showed that water intake is nil when daily cactus consumption by sheep is about 300 g of dry matter. The volume of water consumed by animals decreased from 2.4 litre for the control diet, to 0.1 litre when the level of spineless cactus was above 300 g DM. Animals even stopped drinking water at the highest level of cactus intake (Figure 5).
arid zone of Coquimbo, Azócar and Rojo (1991) demonstrated that supplementing goats with alfalfa hay and opuntia cladodes in the suckling period significantly increased (55.4%) milk production. Table 28: Goat Production [pdf 72]
(1995, cited by Nefzaoui and Ben Salem, 1998) showed that opuntia diets could be supplemented efficiently with Atriplex nummularia
Total liveweight gains and daily gains were significantly higher in treatment 3 compared to the others (P less than 0.05). Daily and total milk production were significantly reduced by the inclusion of A. nummularia. Opuntia produced a positive effect on milk production. According to the results (Azócar et al.,1996):
(i) it is feasible to replace up to 30% of the alfalfa hay ration by opuntia without significantly affecting consumption, liveweight and milk production;
(ii) the presence of opuntia cladodes in the ration of goats in the suckling period induces a higher intake and an increase in milk production, which is probably due to the "lactose effect," as yet not explained; and
Fig 7 [doesn't seem to support what Is said here][pdf 73]
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<P>OPUNTIASPP. FOR FODDER AND FORAGE PRODUCTION IN ARGENTINA: EXPERIENCES AND PROSPECTS
Juan C. GUEVARAand Oscar R. ESTEVEZ
Cactus plantations in Argentina have increased from around 90 ha in 1993 to 840 ha in 1997. Most of the plantations are located in the Provinces of Tucumán (39%), Catamarca (22%), Santiago del Estero (14%), La Rioja (12%) and Salta (10%) (Ochoa de Cornelli, 1997)
consumption of fruits, fresh or processed in syrup, is the most important in Argentina (Ochoa de Cornelli, 1997)
Cactus production is very popular in smallholder operations, where the cladodes are used as forage for cattle and goats (Ricarte et al., 1998), although mainly in winter, when the water supply for livestock is limited (Ochoa de Cornelli et al., 1992)
O. ellisiana was not damaged when temperatures at Kingsville, Texas, dropped to -12°C in 1989 (Gregory et al., 1993). Furthermore,O. Ellisiana experienced no damage and clone #1233 (hybrid between O. lindheimeri Engelm. and some unknown parent) had only slight damage from this freeze when temperatures of -20°C were recorded on a site located about 500 km north of Kingsville (Wang et al., 1997).
Han and Felker (1997), the average water use efficiency (WUE) of O. ellisiana was 162 kg H 2O per kg DM
drought-tolerant and water-efficient fodder shrubs (DTFS) can survive under rainfall as low as 50 mm in a particular year, but with neither growth nor production (Le Houérou, 1994). Mean annual rainfall of 100-150 mm corresponds to the minimum required to successfully establish rainfed plantations of DTFS (Le Houérou, 1994), provided soils are sandy and deep (Le Houérou, 1996a).
O. ficus-indica(Table 29). On sandy soils, productivity ranges from 2.1 to 2.4 t DM/ha/year in areas with 300 mm of rainfall.
Without the incorporation of cactus plantations, the cow-calf operation size necessary to yield positive returns in the Mendoza plains was estimated to be 37 500 ha (Guevara et al., 1996). If a 3-year cactus production accumulation and a daily consumption of 36 kg of fresh cactus material per animal unit (AU) were assumed, the cactus plantation required to feed all the cattle (1580 and 2270 AU in areas with 300 and 400 mm rainfall, respectively), for the entire year in this cow-calf model would be about 0.3% of the ranch size. This cactus plantation would increase the current ranch investment by 7 to 10% (Guevara et al., 1996).
(ii) most of the goats kid in the dry season (autumn-winter), when the forage on offer is insufficient to meet the nutrient requirements for goat lactation; and (iii) there is high kid and doe mortality as a consequence of the feed deficit in this period.
Cactus plantations could be established in bare areas near settlements of the herders where no grazing currently occurred due to overgrazing and wood extraction. Herbaceous vegetation, which could grow in the inter-row alleys, was scarce and therefore the opportunity cost of prohibiting grazing in the cactus plantation was not considered. Only 10% of the wages were included as goat herder opportunity cost. The method of management proposed was cut-and-carry.
decrease in doe annual mortality from 10 to 2% and an additional annual amount of kids per goat were considered as the direct benefits
Costs ranged from US$ 525/ha (50-head goat herd; f 0.1) to US$ 242/ha (200 head goat herd; f 0.9). The cost of establishment could be considered high and not all the stockmen could afford such investment. The cost of installing the fence, the main item of the establishment cost in most of the scenarios analysed, could be reduced if thorn hedges were considered. Thorn bush fences could be established for only 40% of the cost of metal fence (Le Houérou, 1989).
system applied in Tunisia for Acacia saligna and in Syria for Atriplex halimus (Le Houérou, 1996b) could be adopted in Argentina
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<P>OPUNTIA - A STRATEGIC FODDER AND EFFICIENT TOOL TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION IN THE WANA REGION
Ali NEFZAOUI and Hichem BEN SALEM
West Asia/North Africa (WANA)
rainy winters and hot, dry summers
As much as 50% of the arid rangeland may have lost its vegetation since the Second World War, as the human population has increased fourfold (Le Houérou, 1991a). The sheep population has increased by 75% and the stocking rate jumped from 0.25 sheep/ha to 1.0 sheep/ha between 1950 and 1989. The rangeland degradation is simply the outcome of these changes, besides increased cropping activities and increased use of feed grains.
Griffiths (1905) was certain that feeding cactus to livestock started in the USA before the Civil War, and before and after the war, there was extensive freight transportation of cactus pads between Brownsville, Indianola, San Antonio and Eagle Pass in Texas
cultivated in Africa, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Spain, USA and Peru (Barbera et al., 1992; Le Houérou, 1979; Brutsch, 1984; Clovis de Andrade, 1990; Curtis, 1979; Pimienta, 1990; Russell and Felker, 1987a; Saenz, 1985)
Tunisia, under rainfed conditions and with no fertilizer application, spineless cactus yield from 20 t/yr of fresh cladodes in areas with 150 mm/yr rainfall, to 100 t/yr in areas with an average rainfall of 400 mm/yr
Tunisia, Terraces are easily damaged by runoff, but opuntia roots help to hold them in place, ensuring stability of the terraces. Two rows of cactus pads are planted on the inner side of the terraces. The moisture stored at the base of the terrace enhances plant growth.
Cactus can be used in combination with cement barriers or cut palm leaves to reduce wind erosion and sand movement, maintaining the soil and improving vegetative cover.
Protein content of cactus cladodes is low, but tends to increase after fertilizer application Gregory and Felker (1992) found that some clones from Brazil had over 11% crude protein. González (1989) found that N and P fertilizers increased crude protein contents of opuntia cladodes from 4.5% to 10.5% of dry matter
The nutritive quality of opuntia depends on plant type (species and variety), cladode age, season, and agronomic conditions (soil type, climate, growing conditions, etc.).
The effect of cladode age on nutrient content is quite interesting. It is obvious that dry matter increases as cladodes get older. Analysing data related to this aspect, the authors found that crude protein contents decreased (5 to 3% DM) and crude fibre increased (9 to 20% DM) as cladodes aged from 1 to 5 years.
difference between cactus and other forage crops is nutrient degradability in the rumen. While forage crops potential degradability in the rumen is often reached after 48 hours, cactus nutrients are rapidly degraded (in between 6 and 12 hours), so it can be assumed that no significant nutrient extraction is operating after 24 hours (Ben Thlija, 1987).
When the level of cactus in sheep diet increased, fibrous feed intake, rumen volatile fatty acids concentration, rumen protozoa number and rumen ammonia concentration increased, while water intake, rumen cellulolytic activity and rumen acetic acid/propionic acid ratio decreased (Ben Salem et al., 1996)
Rumen pH remained in the range of 6.80 to 7.13, even when animals received the highest level of spineless cactus (Table 39), so pH of rumen fluid was not affected by the presence of spineless cactus in the diet.
The positive effect of spineless cactus supply on NH 3-N concentration was coupled with a significant increase in the total protozoa number in the rumen fluid (P less than 0.001). The average number of protozoa shifted from 3.5 ×10^4/ml to 13, 17.7 and 13.1 ×10^4 /ml with diets supplemented with 0, 300, 450 and 600 g DM of spineless cactus, respectively (Table 39 and Figure 18).
claimed that protozoa contribute to dietary protein digestion and thus ammonia production (Ushida and Jouany, 1985)
well documented that ciliate protozoa have a negative effect on the number of bacteria in the rumen and thus on ruminal cellulolytic activity (Demeyer and Van Nevel, 1979). Moreover, the high level of minerals in spineless cactus can be a limiting factor for microbial growth in the rumen, as suggested by Komisarczuk-Bony and Durand (1991).
It may be concluded that a combination of spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis) with cereal straw is a nutritionally satisfactory solution for maintaining small ruminants in arid zones
cactus provides a fodder rich in energy and a water source in drought conditions. Animals receiving cactus reduce water intake substantially and may even stop drinking water. Moreover, this trial indicates that spineless cactus may improve the nutritive value and intake of poor quality roughages. It may be offered to sheep without any risk of digestive disturbances, provided that it is mixed with a fibrous feed. Finally, it is expected that supply of a protein nitrogen source in conjunction with spineless cactus could result in a further improvement of the nutritive value of straw-based diets. Additional work is required to test this hypothesis.
Generally, cacti are highly palatable. Jersey cows fed on opuntia and supplemented with 1 kg of concentrate feed/day, ate 50.6 kg/day of fresh cactus. Metral (1965) obtained similar results, with cows consuming a voluntary intake of 60 kg when cactus was fed alone. Viana (1965) obtained higher values, with an average voluntary intake of 77.3 kg and 117 kg/day maximum.
Valdes and Flores (1967) observed higher intakes with sheep fed with Opuntia ficus-indica(11 kg/ day) than with Opuntia robusta(6.5 kg/day). Monjauze and Le Houérou (1965) reported intake values ranging from 2.5 to 9 kg/day. It is also reported that higher intakes are observed when water content of pads is higher. Similar results were observed in the authors' work (Nefzaoui and Ben Salem, unpublished data).
The gut fill value is low, and, unusually, feeding cactus enhances intake of fibrous feeds like straw (Figure 20 and Table 36). This result is very interesting because straw is the main feed source in the arid environments of the WANA region. It is well established that besides its low feed value, straw intake is low. Combining straw with cactus increases straw intake and consequently animal performance (Figure 20).
Feeding cactus helps to solve the problem of animal watering. Sheep fed for a long period (400 to 500 successive days) with large amounts of cactus stopped drinking (Rossouw, 1961; Harvard-Duclos, 1969). Woodward et al. (1915) with Jersey cows reported similar results. However, Cottier (1934) suggested that it is not possible to suppress water in cattle fed on cactus.
Gross energy content of most cacti species ranges from 3500 to 4000 Kcal/kg DM. Digestible energy is about 2000 Kcal, which is comparable to a medium quality grass (Ben Thlija, 1987)
high carbohydrate concentration of cladodes
Since cacti are evergreen, it is better to store the product in situto avoid expensive processes like silage or drying, even if they are technically feasible. Chaffed spineless cactus pads can be dried on any suitable surface and then ground in a hammermill through a 6-mm sieve.
Good quality silage can be made from spineless cactus by chaffing the pads together with oat straw, low grade lucerne hay or any other roughage on the basis of 84 parts by mass of spineless cactus and 16 parts by mass of roughage, with the addition of 2% molasses meal.
The best method of grazing is to divide the plantation into small paddocks and graze each of them intensively for a short period. Large losses occur during grazing due to wastage.
Direct browsing needs very tight grazing control, otherwise wastage may reach 50% of the fodder produced (cladodes partially eaten and abandoned)(Monjauze and Le Houérou, 1965; De Kock, 1980).
grass layer between the shrubs is available to the stock [makes the wastage still economical]
utilize spineless cactus in rotation so that a plantation is utilized every three to five years.
Zero grazing or the cut-and-carry technique is more efficient. Loss of feed is virtually nil
Griffiths (1905). Steaming to moisten the spines and chopping of the large pads were, and are, very efficient practices to facilitate the use and maximize the amount of cactus eaten by livestock. According to the same author, tools and machines have been built for these purposes.
A laxative effect appears when the volume of cactus in the diet is high (more than 50 to 60% of the DM intake). This problem is easy to solve, and feeding small amounts of straw or hay prior to cactus distribution is sufficient to have normal transit. not a disease symptom, it just happens that the food passes past through the animal's digestive system faster, and as a result digestion is poorer
* alley cropping technique is preferred, where farmers can crop the area between rows when the rainfall conditions are favourable
* water and soil conservation techniques are applied. In this case, shrubs and cactus are planted according to the contour lines in order to consolidate the so-called tabias.
* Another approach is related to cactus, and the oldest one is the bosquettype, which is a dense plantation surrounding the house, used for fruit cropping as well as fodder to supplement animals indoors
Results showed that cactus based-diets could be supplemented efficiently by Atriplex nummularia.
there is an increase in the intake of fibre feeds, and the rumen volatile fatty acids, the rumen protozoa count and the rumen ammonia concentration all increase
Cactus is an unbalanced diet and should be fed in association with fibrous foodstuffs (straw, hay, shrubs, etc.). It also needs to be supplemented with an appropriate and cheap nitrogen source.
(viii) Cactus is rich in soluble carbohydrates and Ca, but poor in P. Therefore it is recommended to (a) add molasses to the ration to avoid decreasing rumen cellulolytic activity; (b) limit the amount of grain in the diet for the same reason; (c) feed animals with fibrous feeds (straw, hay, etc.) before giving the cactus. Moreover, a special mineral supplement is required to provide sufficient sulphur (S) to maintain an equilibrium Ca/P ratio.
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<P>NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA AS A RUMINANT FEED IN ETHIOPIA
nitrogen (N) from NPN or legumes degrades very rapidly and there is a mismatch between the degradation of organic matter and N
Planting of O. ficus-indicais common and extensiv
Ethiopian organizations that play an important role in the expansion of cactus acreage are the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and the Regional Natural Resource Conservation and Development Bureau. The Cactus Fruit Development Project (CFDP) has promoted the selection, production and distribution of cactus varieties, identification of diseases and design of erosion control measures as part of its strategies (CFDP, 1994)
Young cladodes of O. ficus-indica grown for commercial fruit production in Spain had 10.6-15.0% protein, while mature cladodes varied from 4.4 to 11.3% protein (Retamal et al., 1987b). Similarly, Gregory (1988, cited by CFDP, 1994) reported that as the age of O. ficus-indica increased from one to four years, the CP content decreased: 11.53, 5.74, 5.5 and 5.65%, respectively in the four years, with an average of 7.10%. Compared to mature 12-year-old cladodes, 2-year-old cladodes had substantially higher N, K and Mn, but lower Na, Ca and Fe. This was attributed to age and to higher metabolic activity of young cladodes (Nobel, 1983). Concentrations of 15.3% protein and 0.3% P were reported in commercial O. ficus-indica fruit plantations in California (Nobel, 1983)
young cladodes are generally of better nutritional quality than older cladodes
shallow root systems
Given free choice, rams preferred chopped fresh cactus to chopped dried cactus or whole fresh cactus (Flachowsky and Yami, 1985).
The application of low rates of N increases the percentage of CP significantly. It was proposed that high N treatment (224 kg/ha every two years) is needed to meet the requirements for lactating cows. Application of P (112 kg/ha) also doubles P content, which is normally low in O. ficus-indica(González and Everitt, 1990 cited by Pimienta, 1993).
A device has been designed to mechanically remove the spines (Carmorlinga-Sales et al., 1993). Another method is use of a chaff cutter (De Kock, 1980).
Nutritional changes after harvest have been noted, though not explained. Neri (1991, cited by Pimienta, 1993) observed reduction in the content of both total and reducing sugars, and an increase in pH and protein content. In production systems where water is not limiting, storing opuntia increases DM so that animals can consume more of it to meet their requirements. The increase in its protein content is more important and needs investigation.
CF content is usually taken as a negative index of feed quality (Van Soest, 1982). In this study, Opuntia ficus-indicawas extremely low in CF. Similar results were previously reported by Rodríguez-Felix and Cantwell (1988) and Ferreira-dos-Santos et al. (1990).
O. ficus-indicawas moderate in CP, high in Ca, normal in Mg and low in Na, K and P contents in relation to ruminant requirements from a diet, and similar to common temperate or tropical grasses and legumes
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<P>THE USE OF OPUNTIA AS A FODDER SOURCE IN ARID AREAS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
Gerhard C. DEKOCK
Cacti perform well on deep, light textured soils, including coarse sands, but clay should be avoided. Shallow soils tend to give low yields. Cacti are tolerant of pH up to 8.5, and maximum electrical conductivity at soil saturation should not exceed 5-6 mS/cm (Le Houérou, 1992).
production increase of 200 to 300% has often been observed following moderate nitrogen and phosphorus application. Manuring also increases yield even with very low precipitation of 150-200 mm (Monjauze and Le Houérou, 1965; Le Houérou, 1992; De Kock, 1980). Cacti cannot withstand waterlogging.
De Kock (1980), opuntia uses 267 kg H2O/kg DM, or 3.7 mg DM/g; Atriplexsp. Uses 304 kg H 2O/kg DM, or 3.3 mg DM/g; and Agavesp. uses 93 kg H2O/kg DM, or 10.7 mg DM/g
productivity of opuntia is also very high if compared to most native vegetation under similar conditions. Opuntia produces up to 10 t of aboveground DM/ha/yrin arid zones, 10-20 t in semi-arid zones and 20-30 t in sub-humid areas under appropriate or close to optimum management (Monjauze and Le Houérou, 1965; De Kock and Aucamp 1970; Steynberg and De Kock 1987; Nobel 1988; Le Houérou 1991b, 1992).
Such high yields, however, demand careful crop management and good deep soils. Under such conditions, productivity is about ten times that of standard rangelands under common management conditions. With neither cultivation nor fertilization, yield is still three to five times that of rangeland (De Kock, 1980; Le Houérou,et al., 1988).
Fodder plantations are harvested every two to three years, before they produce fruits.
best time for planting in South Africa is September and October, when the pads are fully-grown and ready to sprout. The resulting plants will be well established before the first frost of the following winter. It is preferable to use one-year-old cuttings as planting material.
protein content of fodder opuntia can be raised from 3.5 to 4.5% crude protein to 8 to 10% through application of nitrogenous fertilizer.
energy requirement for the survival of a 35-kg sheep is approximately 350 g of TDN per day; therefore, the ingestion of 538 g of dry cactus is enough to obtain sufficient energy. This means that 5 to 6 kg of fresh cactus must be ingested daily. However, a sheep eats an average of 4 kg a day.
or cattle, to provide the daily energy requirements for the survival of a 400 kg beast, 2 850 g of TDN are required per day. Therefore, such an animal will require approximately 4 385 g of dry cactus to meet its requirements. That means a daily ingestion of 44 to 45 kg of fresh cladodes. However, an animal only eats an average of 40 kg of cactus per day.
any ration for non-reproductive sheep and cattle should contain at least 8% of crude protein
A sheep with a liveweight of 35 kg requires approximately 50 g of crude protein per day. The average 500 g of dry material from the daily ration of cactus cladodes contains only 20 g of crude protein, so cactus cladodes must be supplemented with some form of crude protein. Cactus cladodes are low in phosphorus and sodium, requiring supplementation of these elements as well. In general, cactus cladodes are not a balanced feed but rather a good, inexpensive source of energy.
Chaffed cactus cladodes can be dried on any suitable surface, and then milled
Good silage can be made from cactus cladodes by chaffing them with oat straw, low grade alfalfa or any other dry roughage on the basis of 84 parts mass of cactus cladodes and 16 parts of roughage, with the addition of molasses meal. When cladodes bearing fruit are used for silage, the addition of molasses is not necessary. The silage is then made and used in a conventional manner.
In an emergency, where nothing else is available, cactus cladodes can be fed alone in any form, and sheep and cattle can survive on it for many months. Wool sheep were kept for 500 days on cactus cladodes alone and survived.
For optimal utilization, however, cactus cladodes should be supplemented. As protein is the most important deficiency of cactus, a protein-rich supplement should be supplied. A supplement comprising one-third bone meal, one-third common salt and one-third urea can be used. Another possibility is a ration consisting of cactus meal and 6.5% of fishmeal, which will supply the needs of sheep.
The most suitable supplement for cactus meal is alfalfa, either meal or hay. It is recommended to provide 100 g of alfalfa in summer and 200 g in winter, with cactus ad libitum. Any other hay legume with a reasonably high protein content could be used instead of alfalfa.
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<P>CULTIVATION OF OPUNTIA FOR FODDER PRODUCTION: FROM RE-VEGETATION TO HYDROPONICS
Candelario MONDRAGÓN-JACOBO, Santiago de J. MÉNDEZ-GALLEGOS and Genaro OLMOS-OROPEZA
Brazil has demonstrated that utilization of opuntia as a forage is easier to integrate into the farming systems of semi-arid regions, where the cultivation of cactus for forage dates back to the early 1900s, and at present there are more than 300 000 ha planted (Russell, 1990).
Computer models indicate that productivity could be increased by 40% by modifying planting layouts (García de Cortázar and Nobel, 1986).
extensive, low-cost plantations aimed at reducing desertification and producing forage
Rainfed conditions common in semi-arid central Mexico, with 300 to 450 mm of rainfall annually, induce the formation of a single layer of new shoots during early spring, which continues until the end of summer.
[propagating] root initials are supported by the water stored in the cladode.
cladode can sustain water loss for a long time: up to six months without losing viability if stored in a shaded location.
According to Nobel and Castañeda (1998), the unrooted cladodes of O. ficus-indicaremain alive for at least 12 months
Consumption of 40 kg of opuntia per day by cattle provides 35 litre (85%) of water (Felkeret al., 1977)
The size of the cladode does not affect the ability to form shoots or roots (Mondragón and Pimienta, 1995), but the size of the cladode is correlated positively to the number and size of the new shoots
A new plant can be formed as long as there is an areole at the top and at the bottom of the cutting, and the first layer can have anywhere from 2 to 6 pads
Better establishment and shorter time between planting and the first harvest are achieved with large cuttings composed of more than one cladode. However, the investment in handling and transportation of this type of material increases accordingly
New plantations can be undertaken even if there is no soil moisture available, using entire cladodes or fractions according to availability of planting stock. In extensive, low maintenance plantations this is a unique feature that confers advantage to opuntia over some trees and shrubs commonly used against desertification (e.g. Eucalyptus spp., Casuarina spp. and Atriplex spp.), which rely on soil moisture at planting for successful establishment.
The succulence of the propagule is a disadvantage when establishing large plantations, due to its weight compared to ordinary budwood or stem cuttings in other species (Fabbri et al., 1996)
Opuntias can endure heavy and continuous pruning. In frost-free locations, pruning can be performed at any season. Orchards devoted to fruit production are pruned after harvest, at the end of the growing season. Bud emergence is heavier if plants are pruned during the growing season. In most cultivars, the vegetative growth overwhelms the reproductive growth. The plant can be maintained in the juvenile stage indefinitely by continuous pruning, which is the basic crop management tool for vegetable opuntia production.
Disregarding the planting system, plants can be pruned down to the initial cladode if needed
bushy plants at low planting densities are more productive (on a per-plant basis) than high-density (using short plants) systems. High density planting systems therefore can withstand heavier pruning
In locations with mild winter temperatures, the plants can be induced to continuously bud if winter protection of some sort is provided, along with irrigation and fertilization. This interesting feature is the basis of out-of-season production of vegetable opuntia across central Mexico and southern Texas. Application of high manure rates to soil and pruning are responsible for the high yields observed in vegetable production in Milpa Alta, Mexico, which can reach 400 ton/ha/year (Nobel, 1994)
High inter-plant competition reduces the reproductive ability of opuntia plants, leading to extended juvenility and generation of new cladodes, which is the objective in forage production. This effect is enhanced in the broad-bed system, which allows minimum space for individual plants. The basis of productivity from high planting densities is the total biomass production, even though individual plants may have a small yield. In contrast, a row layout allows higher individual yields with a fairly low planting density and facilitates mechanization.
Opuntia is affected by shading at any stage of growth
García de Cortázar and Nobel (1986) using computer simulation models validated with field studies conducted under irrigated conditions in Chile. Water and temperature were found to be of secondary importance for plant productivity. Increasing Stem Area Index (SAI) or cladode area per unit ground up to 4.0 for plants that are 5 cladodes tall, productivity could be increased by up to 40%. Orientation of initial cladodes had no significant effect
Typical plantations for vegetable production in Milpa Alta Mexico are done in furrows, training the plant to obtain a compact low height (less than 1.5 m) bush, with around 40 000 plants per hectare (80 ×40 cm)
[in Brazil] 100 ×25 cm (40 000 plants/ha), which are more intensive than the traditional planting method using 2 m between rows and 1 m between plants. Two years after planting, the reported yields were 246 ton/ha for the high density planting versus 100 ton/ha for the low density plantation. Both systems were supplemented with fertilizers or manures
Opuntia has been the plant of choice for socio-ecological-oriented plantations in northern Mexico. It has been used as a government employment strategy in semi-arid areas
Lopez et al. (1997), indicating that in the 1970s, opuntia was collected from sites located within a radius of 20 km around the main cities, while in the 1990s the distance had increased to more than 120 km
Flores and Aranda (1997) reported that there were 3 million ha of scattered wild opuntias in northern Mexico, with another 150 000 ha planted by ranchers with government support, with the aim of increasing the availability of forage, providing refuge for the local fauna, and countering desertification
Attempts to introduce selected genotypes have been unsuccessful, so native species are preferred. Cultivation of cuttings from frost-tolerant selections has been also reported (Borrego et al., 1990).
flat terrain is preferred, without removal of initial vegetation. The opuntia is planted in furrows following contour lines, laid out with a disk. Once cactus is established - after 2-3 years - undesirable vegetation is removed and pasture grasses are seeded
Select sites with the least restrictions for implementation of simple water harvesting and soil conservation techniques, soil preparation of light-slope terrain (less than 4%) can be done with standard agricultural machinery. Contour planting is the simplest and cheapest technique, which can be enhanced by drawing furrows close to the plants to collect rainwater to the benefit of the opuntia
Projects that include opuntia should regard at least three years as the minimum period to assess genotype adaptation and forage productivity
During the establishment period (1 to 2 years), opuntia needs protection from predators, and controlled livestock consumption should not start until after this period. Protection of the site is required to avoid overgrazing and destruction of the newly planted cladodes. [could they be sprayed with pepper/repellant?]
Select plants that are indigenous to the region. Mature and old plants that have survived unusual frost and drought events should be multiplied and reintroduced
Using two cladodes per planting spot increased the success of plantation to 95% in a reforestation trial conducted at Coahuila, Mexico, using O. rastreraand O. lindheimeri(Tores et al., 1990). Manually building an individual micro-catchment around the plant improved utilization of the scarce rainwater available in the region (mean annual precipitation of 327 mm).
high doses of manure have been reported in Milpa Alta, Mexico, where rates exceeding 200 ton/ha every other year are common
It was proposed for use in small plots (less than 0.5 ha) in the backyard or near the household. These spots are usually more productive than the open fields (due to the accumulation of domestic waste)
Production is higher during the summer season (the rainy season in Mexico).
The site should be preferably flat, but slopes up to 3% can be handled with simple soil and water conservation practices, such as contour planting, without increasing cost of site preparation
Rainfall management is a key issue for effective plant growth. Simple techniques that improve rainfall management have been tried successfully, the aim being to reduce runoff and impound the water in situto allow better infiltration and extended availability for the crop
In Mexico, the cultivars Pabellón and CPF1 are the most suitable. Both are highly productive and posses large spineless pads. Pabellón has ovoid, thick, dark green pads, and the adult plants produce red, tasty fruits. CPF1 produces long, thin, green pads, suitable for consumption as a vegetable when tender.
without irrigation in central Mexico are 75 and 118 ton/ha for Pabellón and CPF1, respectively.
Planting material should be collected from robust, productive and healthy plants. The pads can be collected at the end of the growing season and subjected to slight dehydration to induce suberization of the joints. Collect pads of medium to large size, devoid of suspicious dark spots or discolorations. After collection, they are stored in a shaded dry place for 2 weeks. Pad portions can also be used when planting material is scarce, but the smaller the portion, the longer the time new shoots will require to reach full size. The smallest portion that can be planted should have at least two to three areoles in each face.
To reduce rotting, the pads are treated with Bordeaux mixture prepared on the same day as treatment. Mix 1 kg of copper sulphate in 5 litres of warm water until completely dissolved, then add 1 kg of lime, stirring until the mixture is homogeneous, and then dilute to 100 litres (enough to treat up to 2000 pads).
Tender shoots are highly susceptible to frost damage, and they start emerging 2-3 weeks after planting. Therefore planting should be done after risk of frosts is over. A safe lower limit temperature would be 5°C for most cultivars.
opuntia can serve as a nurse plant for many weed species
mealy bugs and thrips, can be controlled with contact insecticides. Effective control has been achieved by spraying with dithiocarbamate at 1 kg/200 litre of water
Mature pads can be collected at the end of the growing season. They are detached from the plant using a sharp knife, with a clean stroke right in the joint. Avoid unnecessary chopping of the harvested pad or the plant, to reduce risk of rotting. The number of pads to be harvested varies with cultivar and age of the plant. During the first year, 2-4 pads per plant can be collected. In order to get steady yield, the plants are left with only two branches ("rabbit ears") oriented along the broadbed
Fresh pads should be stored in a shady dry spot. They can be either stacked or arranged in rows sitting on their sides. Avoid spots that collect runoff in order to minimize rotting or sprouting. Those pads in close contact to the ground need to be flipped over every 4 to 6 weeks to avoid rooting. Some relief from direct sunshine can be obtained with a thin layer of dry straw spread on top of the stored pads. Direct sunshine induces pad deformations and chlorophyll degradation on the exposed area, thus reducing nutritional quality. Under the semi-arid cool conditions of central Mexico, the authors have stored pads for up to six months without appreciable losses.
reports of cattle feeding on opuntia for 400 to 525 days using opuntia as the only source of water
Plant survival varied from 70.2 to 88%; the failures were attributed to rotting, probably due to origin of propagules, as planting material was collected from a previous hydroponic unit and was more succulent than regular material collected from commercial orchards.
Development of Sustainable Agriculture in Arid Regions of Chile - Paper on "Prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) utilization as a feed for ruminants"
IPGRI - An ethnobotanical inventory
Paper on Controle de plantas daninhas na cultura da palma forrageira (Opuntia ficus-indica, Mill.)
FAO Electronic Conference - Paper on The Prickly Pears (Opuntiaspp., Cactaceae).
Paper on Biological Control of Opuntia strictain the Kruger National Park
Environmental Affairs Office, Washington State USA - Opuntia fragilis
Arizona - Index of Prickly Pears
Paper on "Evaluation of leucaena and cactus pear as forage resources for rabbits"
Value and Use of Opuntia polyacantha
FAO electronic conference Paper on Opuntia-based ruminant feeding systems in Mexico
Paper on Plains Prickly pear: relation to grazing intensity and blue grama yield on central great plains
Native cultivars of cactus pear in Mexico
FAO - a paper on Opuntiae: a strategic fodder and efficient tool to combat desertification in the WANA region
Cactus homepage of Texas A & M University, including use as forage
Paper on Efeito da adubação e de nematicida no crescimento da palma forrageira cv. Gigante
Prickly Pear Cactus Control
Famine Food Field Guide Opuntia ficus-indica
Programa de investigación y servicio en nopal
Plate 1. Opuntia is the plant of choice for reclamation of eroded and degraded lands in Mexico and several countries of North Africa. It is also planted to improve productivity of overgrazed areas.
A) Opuntia plantation in a semiarid area of Northern Mexico intended for vegetative cover recovery.
B) Soil conservation in Tunisia takes advantage of Opuntia tolerance to drought and its high productivity.
C) Opuntia planted in a subtropical area of south central Mexico to reinforce simple soil conservation works.
D) A grassland recovery project in Central Mexico includes rainwater collection and spiny Opuntia for fruit and fodder production.
Plate 2. Opuntia pads are chopped before feeding to cattle.
A) Small electrical chopper from Brazil.
B) A machine from Northern Mexico designed for a medium size dairy operation.
C) Delivering of whole pads in Brazil.
D) Manual chopping of spineless Opuntia pads in Tunisia. The mechanical devices are of local design and are usually built to order in small metal shops.
Plate 3. Cultivation of Opuntia can be adjusted to the needs and possibilities of the area.
A) High density plantation in broadbeds in central Mexico for intensive production and fodder Opuntia. Plants can be harvested annually or every other year, limited irrigation is sometimes provided.
B) Rainfed plantation in Northeastern Brazil. Plants are harvested in the third year.
C) Barley inter-cropped in rows of Opuntia, increasing land use ratio and the number of products obtained from a single piece of land: cereal grain and stover, as well as fresh Opuntia pads suitable for animal feeding.
D) Spineless Opuntia planted in rows for fodder production in Mendoza, Argentina.
Plate 4. Spineless Opuntia selected for fodder production.
A) CPF1, obtained by the late F. Barrientos at Chapingo, Mexico.
B), C) and D) Many of the spineless O. ficus-indica can have more than one use, fruit and fodder production is an interesting combination. "Amarilla Grande" selected for its big juicy fruits and spineles cladodes "Selección Pabellon" which produces red fruit are some examples.