Evaluation of Opuntia ficus-indica as a multi-purpose species under west Asia conditions
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The agronomic potential of Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. a multi-purpose crop is becoming increasingly apparent in arid and semi-arid regions. Nevertheless, the main limitation for the adaptation and distribution of O. ficus−indica is the cold temperatures that cause severe freezing damage or ultimate plant death. The objectives of this study were to assess the cold tolerance of different cactus pear cultivars with various origins and quantify their forage production potentials under semi-arid conditions of Jordan. Cladodes of a total of 40 cactus pear cultivars were planted in April 2013 using a completely randomized design with five replicates. Frost damage was recorded visually after each occasion of frost occurrence in each year, and number of cladodes per plant was quantified. Five cladodes from each established plant were cut and weighed to estimate the cladode green biomass weight. Significant differences in cold/freezing tolerance, pad numbers and biomass production among tested Opuntia ficus-indica cultivars were detected (P<0.01). COPENA V1, 74115_Bab Toza, and 74001 cultivars produced the highest number of pads. 69223_Burbank Azrou, 2_25_15 and Bianca de Bonacardo were the most frost tolerant snice no frost effect observed on any cladode. Seedless Roccapalumba had the lowest number of cladodes and showed high sensitivity to low temperatures. The average cladode weights of 69242_Matmata, 69246_Oueslatia, and COPENA V1 were the highest while Red Roccapalumba and 10_ FOZA10 had the lowest average cladode weight. The findings of this study showed a significant positive correlation between number of cladodes and the average cladode weights (r = 055, P<0.01). Based on the high variations, it can be concluded that the potential of spineless cactus is high to greatly benefit livestock production in arid cold regions especially if we consider cultivar adaptation potential in order to choose the suitable cultivar for each environment.