Suitability of thornless cactus pear under the intercropping system for fruit and fodder production.

The word "Cactus" derives, from the Ancient Greek word kaktos, a name originally used for a spiny plant whose identity is not certain. Thornless Cactus belongs to family Cactaceae and is native to America. Cactaceae family has 122 genera and 1600 species and subfamily Opuntioidae has 250 species worldwide. The genus Opuntia contains 180 species, mostly consisting of platyopuntias with their stems occurring as flattened segments termed as cladodes (de Cortázar and Nobel, 1992). O. elatior, O. monocantha and O. dilleni are important species naturalised in arid and semi-arid parts of India. Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactus pear) can tolerate water-limited conditions, high temperatures and poor soils. Opuntia species possess crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) pathways and hence capable of converting water to biomass fourfold more efficiently than either C 4 or C3 plants (Han and Felker, 1997). Due to its ability to produce increased dry matter under limited water condition through a specialized photosynthetic mechanism called Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) was considered as a future forage crop in the drylands of India . It is used in cosmetics such as shampoo, cream, and body lotions etc. (Pimienta, 1994; Barbera et al., 1995; The Hindu , June 27, 2002; Singh et al., 2003). Its fruit pulp is found to be a good source of K, Na, Ca, Mg and Fe (Kalegowda et al., 2015).
Spread of cactus pear
The cactus was first domesticated in Mexico, where it is still used for various purposes. Cactus pear was introduced to Europe by Spanish conquerors in the late 15th century. The plant spread to North Africa by conquerors (Moors) return from Spain (Barbera et al. 1992). Cactus introduced to Australia in the 1788 from Rio de Janeiro by Captain Arthur Phillip of the English West India Company who wanted to set up a dye manufacturing industry (Anno. 2016).





CAZRI, Jodhpur

Introduced by researchers at Central Arid Zone Research Institute


NARI, Phaltan

The 33 cactus clones were introduced at the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute at Phalton, Maharashtra India


CSSRI, Karnal

The 5 thornless cactus clones (1270, 1271, 1280, 1287, and 1308) were introduced in Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal from Texas


CIAH, Bikaner

51 Accessions Introduced from Texas.


CAFRI, Jhansi

The 5 thornless clones (1270, 1271, 1280, 1308 and 1287) were introduced.


BAIF, Pune

The five cactus clones were introduced from Central Agroforestry Research Institute (CAFRI), Jhashi.


CAZRI, Jodhpur

The 43 Cactus clones were introduced from Tunisia and Italy.



The 64 Cactus clones were introduced from ICARDA office New Delhi and CAZRI Jodhpur


IGFRI, Jhansi

The 49 accessions introduced from ICARDA.


CSSRI, Karnal

The 24 new clones of edible cactus introduced from ICARDA, Italy, Brazil and Latin America.

Cactus pear cultivation status
It is widely distributed in many parts of the world such as Australia, Mexico, South Africa, United States and countries of Mediterranean basin. Presently cactus pear is widely grown in Mexico, Malta, Spain, Sicily, Italy, Greece, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel, Chile, Brazil, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Portugal, Albania, Cyprus, and United States. In India, research and adaptation work on cactus pear has been started in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra. In Kachchh district of Bhuj, comprehensive research work on 64 cactus accession has been evaluated and best accessions have been distributed to various farmers of the regions.

Sl. No.


Cultivation area (x 1000 ha)



















(Source: De Waal, et al. 2015)
Cactus in the cropping system
Due to the shallow root system of cactus pear, there is not an adverse effect of cactus pear on the the deep-rooted plants. Cactus pear can tolerate some extent of shade and it can grow well up to 50% shading (Dev et al. 2017), hence, goes well with existing cropping systems. The studies under taken at Bikaner to access the performance of rainfed crops with cactus pear, the result showed that cactus can be grown with legumes such as moth bean, moong bean, cowpea and cluster bean. Both legumes and cactus were not competitive with each other. Studies at Bikaner also showed that cactus can be cultivated along with agroforestry trees such as Tecomella undulata and Prosopis cineraria. Research activities on integration of four clones of edible cactus viz., 1270, 1271, 1280 and 1308 along with plantation of Acacia senegal and other agroforestry trees have been initiated at ICAR- Central Agroforestry Research Institute, Jhansi (Ram, et al. 2016) and ICAR-Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Regional Research Station, Kukma-Bhuj. Another study was undertaken at IGFRI Jhansi, Cactus planted with hardy perennial grass (Trispecific hybrid) in 1 m × 1 m row spacing for supplementation of green biomass throughout the year at IGFRI farm as well as Cactus planted in Leucaena based Agroforestry systems and Aonla based hortipasture systems started at IGFRI Jhansi (Ghosh et al. 2016).
Currently, CAZRI, RRS Bhuj is maintaining 64 accessions of cactus pear received through ICARDA and local collections and are being evaluated for survival, growth and green fodder production at the research farm. Due to extension efforts of CAZRI, RRS and KVK, Bhuj there is steady growing demand by the farmers for planting materials of cactus pear. Some best performing accessions were distributed to the farmers for growing under different intercropping. The growth of cactus pear was very good under the different intercropping system as well as yield of intercrops was not affected. Cactus are successfully grown with the fruit crop like pomegranate, mango, banana, and vegetable like onion, garlic and cabbage in the Bhuj region of Gujarat.


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About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently working as Scientist (Eco. Bot and PGR) at ICAR-CAZRI RRS Kukma Bhuj Gujarat.