Spineless prickly pear for food and fodder


Photo credit: Ilonka de Rooy (Casamance, Senegal): 11892206_965491450156353_3290028431388225088_n copy 2

Young plants grown from one single pad in a couple of months.

Grow spineless Opuntia for food and fodder

by  (University of Ghent, Belgium)

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/xsnBWBIek2g

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The well-known prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a fantastic plant species to combat land degradation (desertification).  It grows on almost all the arid and semi-arid soils and can easily propagated by using individual pads as cuttings.

Fruits and pads are used as food and fodder.  Several medicinal uses enhance the value of this plant.

However, the spiny prickly pear can become a noxious weed if not trimmed in time, but one should know that the spineless variety (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis) exists on every continent.

In Central-America, Mexico and Brazil the spineless “nopales” are eaten as a delicacy.  They are grown in huge plantations on 10.000s of hectares.  Its possible introduction in the drylands as a food or fodder crop should be studied.  It can be an interesting tool in the combat of malnutrition and hunger, even in the alleviation of poverty.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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