Conference scope

    Rate this item
    (0 votes)

    Recently Hans Dreyer, director of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division stated that "Climate change and the increasing risks of droughts are strong reasons to upgrade the humble cactus to the status of an essential crop in many areas”.

    Land degradation occurs in all continents and affects the livelihoods of millions of people, including a large proportion of the poor in the drylands. Cacti and Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. in particular are xerophytic plants, widely cultivated in arid and semi-arid regions worldwide. The species Opuntia ficus-indica is cultivated in more than 20 countries. The total area of cactus is estimated at 5 million ha of which 3 million are wild and located in Mexico.North Africa is home to around 900,000 ha of cactus of which 600,000 ha in Tunisia. Many reasons may account for the great interest devoted to cacti, these include their multipurpose use and their adaptation to the harsh environments. The particular root system of cacti is an asset for the fixation of wind and rain eroded soils, and based on thatcactus growing in degraded areas should be encouraged. The establishment of sustainable production systems based on cactus may contribute to the food security of populations in agriculturally marginalized areas and to soil improvement. Cacti are among the best plants for the revegetation of arid and semi-arid areas as they are tolerant to scarce and erratic rainfall and high temperatures. The importance of cactus lies in the fact that (i) its cultivation practices are simple, (ii) it grows rapidly after itsintroduction in a new area, (iii) it grows easily in harsh conditions characterized by high temperature, lack of water and poor soil, (iv) it generates  income from the selling of much valued and appreciated fruits, (v) each part of it (stems, flowers, fruits, cladodes, fruit seeds, etc.) could be advantageously used in different domains (food and pharmaceutical industries, medicine, etc.).

    Cactus has been consumed by humans for over 9000 years.  As an underused crop, cactus has received increasing attention during the last few years. Cactias CAM plants can use water much more efficiently with regard to CO2 uptake and productivity than C3 and C4 plants. Biomass generation by CAM plants per unit of water is on average 5 to 10 times greater than C4 and C3 plants. In view of the specific phenological, physiological and structural adaptations of cacti, it can be assessed that they are well positioned to cope with future global climate change.

    Cacti are now part of the natural landscape and the agricultural systems of many regions of the world. There is increasing interest in growing opuntias, particularly O. ficus-indica, as they play a strategic role in enhancing agricultural and economic developmentin the disadvantaged areas.  Therefore, cacti have become a major source of products and functions as a crop for both subsistence and market-oriented agriculture, contributing to the food security in agriculturally marginalized areas and as a tool to mitigate drought and to combat desertification.

    Read 362 times
    © 2018 IRESA. All Rights Reserved.