There should be a magnificent future for the spineless Opuntia in the drylands (Willem Van Cotthem)

Today, I received a message of Oliver BARNES concerning the feasibility of producing Opuntia in a drought-affected country.

Here is my reply :

Dear Oliver,

Thanks for contacting me. First of all, I have never been involved in any aspect of commercialization. I have been teaching botany at the Ghent University (Belgium) and did a lot of research on methods to help people in drought-affected countries to fresh food, e.g. with the TerraCottem-method (see

Lately, I have developed the “Seeds for Food” action and the “Bottle towers for gardening”.(see

As for the Opuntia story, I find Opuntia ficus-indica one of the most interesting plant species for all human beings. Knowing that the spineless variety of this plant is grown in plantations over 10.000s of hectares in Mexico and Brazil, sold as “nopales” in a remarkably huge industry (see Google), I still wonder why this drought-tolerant plant with its edible paddles and fruits is not produced and commercialized in all the drought-affected countries. It can also be used as an excellent fodder plant for animals.

It is so easy to be multiplied in a vegetative way, that any person can start setting up a plantation and see the positive results in a minimum of years.

Not being an expert in marketing, I leave it to the people involved to find the best ways for an industrial application at middle or large scale.

Wishing you success,

Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
Honorary Professor University of Ghent

2000-06 - N.E. Brazil : Smallholder farmer inspecting his Opuntia plantation (Photo WVC)
2000-06 – N.E. Brazil : Smallholder farmer inspecting his Opuntia plantation (Photo WVC)

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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.