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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1247: IX International Congress on Cactus Pear and Cochineal: CAM Crops for a Hotter and Drier World

Genotype × environmental interactions of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) in semi-arid regions of South Africa: cladode production

Authors:   H.J. Fouché, G.M. Coetzer, M.F. Smith
Keywords:   cultivars, fodder production, rainfall
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1247.11
The management of a fodder production program in arid and semi-arid regions is a challenge. Cactus pear proves to be an ideal crop to stabilize fodder flow and mitigate the effect of drought. The aim of this study was to evaluate cultivars to serve this purpose. Thirty-seven cactus pear cultivars were studied; the orchard was laid out as a randomized complete block design with two replicates of five data plants used for data collection. Cladode production data were collected once a year in winter (June-July) for a period of 10 years. Fruit thinning was done during the first 5 years according to the recommendations for optimum fruit production. During the following 5 years, no fruit thinning was done, with the aim of increasing total fodder production. Production data were correlated with rainfall data. During the first 5 years, when fruit thinning was done, a significant positive correlation of 85% was recorded between cladode production and early summer rainfall (October-November). When no fruit thinning was done, a weak negative correlation occurred between cladode production and rainfall. During the first 5 years, cultivar ‘R1259’ produced the highest cladode yield, but ‘R1251’, ‘Tormentosa’, ‘Berg’ × ‘Mexican’ and ‘Gymno Carpo’ were the most consistent cladode producers. When fruit was thinned, ‘Fusicaulis’ was the best performer in the first three seasons, with ‘Meyers’ and ‘Roedtan’ in the last two seasons. However, ‘Blue Motto’, ‘R1259’, ‘R1260’ and ‘Direkteur’ proved to be the most consistent. October and November proved to be the most critical months of the rainfall season for cladode production.

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