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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 79 No. 3, p. 550-555
    Received: Apr 28, 1986

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Nutrient Relations and Productivity of Prickly Pear Cacti1

  1. Park S. Nobel,
  2. Charles E. Russell,
  3. Peter Felker,
  4. Jorge Galo Medina and
  5. Enrique Acuña2



Prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.) are widely used for cattle forage and fodder as well as human food, but their nutrient responses have received little attention. Therefore, soil levels of 13 elements were compared with growth over a 3-yr period for Opuntia engelmannii Salm-Dyck and 0. rustrera Weber at 11 sites in Coahuila, Mexico. Also, various levels of N and P were applied to O. engelmannii growing for 1.5 yr at Kingsville, TX. The tenfold differences in growth at the Mexican sites were not correlated with soil element level, except for N (r2=0.44; P<0.05) and B (r2=0.64; P<0.01); 84% of the site-to-site variation in productivity could be accounted for by these two elements. Fertilizer studies in Texas showed that dryweight gain could be increased 73% by 160 kg N ha−1 and 48% by 80 kg P ha−1 compared to controls without N or P applications (P< 0.01 in both cases), and that some N ✕ P interaction occurred. Cladodes from the control plots in Texas had 21.1 g N kg− and 1.97 g P kg−1, which was at least twofold higher than for the Mexican sites, and 23 mg B kg−1, which was over fivefold higher than the average for the Mexican sites. Thus, N, P, and possibly B fertilization can increase the growth of these cacti, which can achieve a relatively high dry weight productivity of about 15 Mg ha−1 yr−1 in semiarid areas without irrigation

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