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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 581: IV International Congress on Cactus Pear and Cochineal

OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA F. INERMIS AND ATRIPLEX NUMMULARIA L.: TWO COMPLEMENTARY FODDER SHRUBS FOR SHEEP AND GOATS

Authors:   H. Ben Salem, A. Nefzaoui, L. Ben Salem
Keywords:   Opuntia ficus-indica f. inermis, Atriplex nummularia, complementary, performance, sheep, goats.
Abstract:
Fodder trees and shrubs have high present-day potential value as a source of feed for domestic livestock and wildlife. Opuntia ficus indica f. inermis (spineless cactus) and to a less extent saltbushes (Atriplex nummularia and A. halimus) are widespread in the Mediterranean area, mainly in arid and semi-arid zones of Tunisia. Both plants tolerate harsh conditions prevailing in these zones representing and provide livestock with important bank of renewable forage. A set of reviewing papers on the integration of these shrub species into livestock diets have been published and discussed in the present paper. However, the complementary role of A. nummularia and spineless cactus have not been addressed. In the current paper we noted that both species withstand drought conditions and may grow in the same area, mainly in arid and semi-arid zones marked with low rainfall and poor quality soils. They can be considered as efficient tool for combating desertification in these zones. The nutrient profile of these plant species may justify their complementary role as feed source. Indeed, A. nummularia foliage is high in crude protein, fibre and salt but low in energy. However, spineless cactus pads are high in soluble carbohydrates, calcium and vitamins but low in crude protein and fibre. It is worthy noting that spineless cactus, a succulent plant species, may dilute salt in A. nummularia and thus improves animal performance. Illustrations showing the benefit of giving these species together as basal diet or supplements for low quality roughages are reported in the current paper and discussed. The gaps in knowledge and research priorities have been dealt.
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