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Jorge A. Zegbe and Jaime Mena-Covarrubias

Cactus pear is a Mexican fruit crop cultivated extensively (about 51,000 ha) in the semiarid highlands of central Mexico. This crop has gained economic importance in countries of Europe, America, Asia, and Africa ( Basile, 2001 ). In Mexico, cactus

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C. Mondragón-Jacobo and S. Perez-González

Cactus pear production has been an outstanding activity during the last two decades in central Mexico. It has been devoted mainly to fresh consumption for the national market and for exporting to the USA to a lesser extent. Official statistics report ≈200,000 ton of fresh fruit entering the market every year from June to September. Such a volume is supported on a limited stock of varieties that were originally selected by growers. They were first cultivated in backyards and now as commercial orchards under rainfed conditions. With the exception of `Reyna', there are no formal descriptions of such varieties. This information will be valuable to growers and could provide a background to define breeding goals and strategies. Data was collected in 1992–94 from 12 of the most important cactus pear varieties in central Mexico. The following traits related with fruit quality we registered: fruit weight and color, peel thickness, seed number, and weight and soluble solids. Average fruit size ranged from only 679 in `Charola' to more than 200 g in `Cristalina' with 2.8 and 5.6 g of seeds/fruit, respectively. Commercially, white fleshed fruit is highly appreciated, but there is a wide range from yellow and orange to deep red. Edible portion ranges from 46% in `Cardona' to 64% in `Centenario', while percent soluble solids showed less variability (13.2–15–9), which seems to be strongly influenced by light and temperature at harvest.

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J.O. Kuti

Flavonoid content and antioxidant activity in peel and pulp samples of four different cactus pear fruit varieties were investigated. Major cactus fruit flavonoids were quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin. Greater amount of quercetin was found in the pulp compared with the peel samples in all varieties examined. Both kaempferol and isorhamnetin were found in at least three of the varieties (Opuntia ficus-indica; O. lindheimeri; O. streptacantha) exclusively in the peel samples. Generally, pulp tissue samples of all the cactus fruit varieties contained greater ascorbic acid, glutathione, alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and antioxidant activities than the peel tissue samples. Total flavonoids correlated well with antioxidant activity (r 2 = 0.89). Ascorbic acid had the highest antioxidant activity, followed by glutathione, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol on equimolar basis.

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M. Schirra, M. Agabbio, S. D'Aquino, and T.G. McCollum

The influence of postharvest heat conditioning at 38 °C for 24, 48, or 72 hours on ripe `Gialla' cactus pear [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Miller] fruit produced by the spring flush was investigated during 21 days of storage at 6 °C and 90%-95% relative humidity (RH) followed by 7 days at 20 °C and 70%-75% RH (simulated marketing). Conditioning for 24 to 72 h reduced by 50% the severity of chilling injury (CI) on cactus pears following exposure to cold storage. Treatment for 24 to 72 h was also effective in reducing decay, with conditioning for 24 h being the most effective. Overall visual quality was better in heat-conditioned compared with control fruit. Mass loss was significantly reduced by all heat conditioning treatments. Respiration rate was not affected by heat treatment. Ethylene evolution was lower in fruit heat-conditioned for 48 or 72 h than for 0 h. Conditioning for 72 h resulted in the highest fruit ethanol levels. The influence of conditioning on juice pH, titratable acidity, soluble solids concentration and ascorbic acid was negligible. Prestorage heat treatment provides some measure of CI and decay control without detrimental effects to visual quality of early ripening cactus pear fruit and may offer an alternative to fungicide treatments.

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P. Inglese, G. Barbera, T. La Mantia, and S. Portolano

We established a cladode load and thinning time that maximized fruit and flesh size in `Gialla' cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica Mill.). Five weeks after spring flush removal, second flush flower buds were thinned to nine, six, or three per cladode; the same treatment was repeated during the early stages of fruit development. Control cladodes had a natural load of 15 fruit. Time of thinning did not affect fruit growth and ultimate weight. Fruit and flesh weight increased with thinning, but export weight was obtained only in cladodes with no more than six fruit. Heavier thinning did not result in any further increase of fruit or flesh weight. Percent flesh was not affected by thinning. Fruit characteristics, such as total soluble solids concentration and seed content did not change with thinning, but the seeds: flesh ratio decreased with thinning. Fruit on cladodes with the lowest load ripened earlier than those on more heavily yielding cladodes.

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P. Inglese, G. Barbera, and T. La Mantia

Flowers and stems (cladodes) of cactus pear [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.] appear simultaneously in spring, and a second vegetative and reproductive flush can be obtained in early summer by completely removing flowers and cladodes of the spring flush at bloom time. The seasonal growth patterns of cactus pear fruits and cladodes were examined in terms of dry-weight accumulation and cladode extension (surface area) to determine if cladodes are competitive sinks during fruit development. Thermal time was calculated in terms of growing degree hours (GDH) accumulated from bud burst until fruit harvest. Fruits of the spring flush had a 25% lower dry weight and a shorter development period than the summer flush fruits, and, particularly, a shorter duration and a lower growth rate at the stage when most of the core development occurred. The duration of the fruit development period was better explained in terms of thermal rather than chronological time. The number of days required to reach commercial harvest maturity changed with the time of bud burst, but the thermal time (40 × 103 GDH) did not. Newly developing cladodes may become competitive sinks for resource allocation during most of fruit growth, as indicated by the cladode's higher absolute growth rate, and the fruit had the highest growth rate during the final swell of the core, corresponding to a consistent reduction in cladode growth rate. Cladode surface area extension in the first flush ceased at the time of summer fruit harvest (20 Aug.), while cladodes continued to increase in dry weight and thickness until the end of the growing season (November), and, eventually, during winter. The growth of fruit and cladodes of the summer flush occurred simultaneously over the course of the season; the cladodes had a similar surface area and a lower (25%) dry-weight accumulation and thickness than did first flush cladodes. The proportion of annual aboveground dry matter allocated to the fruits was 35% for the spring flush and 46% for the summer flush, being similar to harvest increment values reported for other fruit crops, such as peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.]. Summer cladode pruning and fruit thinning should be accomplished early in the season to avoid resource-limited growth conditions that could reduce fruit and cladode growth potential.

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Fabián Robles-Contreras, Rubén Macias-Duarte, Raul Leonel Grijalva-Contreras, and Manuel de Jesus Valenzuela-Ruiz

The agricultural zones in the Sonoran Desert have great problems of water availability. An alternative that the grower must consider to diminish the negative effects caused by the water shortage is the establishment of crops with low water requirements. One such crop is the cactus pear vegetable (nopalitos). This crop supports and produces in conditions of low water availability and is a product of high demand. The objective was evaluate the potential of production of nopalitos under this condition. We evaluated two cultivars (Opuntia inermis and O. Ficus-indica) in a system of furrows with 1 m of separation between lines and 50 cm between plants, with a pruninig system of two producing caldodes per plant. The plot was drip-irrigated every 10–15 days. The evaluation was made during Spring 2004, harvesting the nopalitos to commercial size (17–21 cm) every 3–4 days. The measured variables were the yield and the weight of the nopalitos. The budbreak and harvest of nopalitos appeared in form of productive cycles, and we evaluated only the first two cycles of harvest (24 Mar. to 20 May). The obtained yields were 45.8 and 42 t·ha-1 in cv. Opuntia inermis and O. ficus-indica, respectively. The weight of nopalitos was 112 g and 106 g, respectively. We observed an insect attack (Dactylopiidae), and it was necessary to make two applications of a biological soap for pest control. The presence of this pest was almost exclusively in cv. Opuntia inermis, producing yellowish color in some cladodes.

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Carlos A. Lazcano, Fred T. Davies Jr., Andrés A. Estrada-Luna, Sharon A. Duray, and Victor Olalde-Portugal

Mature cladodes of prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia amyclaea Tenore. `Reina') were treated with five wounding methods and four concentrations of potassium salt indole-3-butyric acid (K-IBA) to stimulate adventitious root formation. The wounding method and K-IBA had highly significant effects on root number and root dry mass of cladodes. Interaction between K-IBA and wounding methods showed that greater root number was obtained at the higher auxin concentrations and with wounding methods that had the greatest cut surface area. K-IBA concentrations from 4,144 to 41,442 μm (1,000 to 10,000 mg·L-1) increased root dry mass. Only the wounding method affected rotting of cladodes. Treatments allowing suberization had a higher percentage of nonrotted cladodes. This research validates the commercial practice of allowing cladodes to suberize early in the propagation cycle. K-IBA altered rooting polarity and stimulated adventitious root formation along the wounded cladode surfaces. The vertical nonsuberized wounding methods and auxin treatments are an excellent classroom demonstration for manipulating rooting polarity. Auxin application and wounding could be of commercial benefit for enhanced rooting in the clonal regeneration of new selections for prickly-pear cactus orchards.

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Jules Janick

fruits. The cactus family (Cactaceae) is confined to the New World but has been distributed worldwide. Cacti ( Fig. 14 ) have become important world crops for fruit (cactus pear, pitaya), vegetables (cladodes), animal feed, and ornamentals. Cactus is also

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Andrès A. Estrada-Luna and Fred T. Davies Jr.

Micropropagated cactus pear plantlets (Opuntia amyclaea Tenore) cv. Reyna were colonized with a Mexican endomycorrhiza isolate, ZAC-19 (containing Glomus etunicatum and two unknown Glomus spp.) and fertilized with two phosphorous levels (0 and 11 μg P/ml) to study their effect on plant growth and nutrient uptake. After 7 months of greenhouse culture, there was 100% survival of the micropropagated cactus pear plants. Evidence of mycorrhizal colonization was observed 5 days after inoculation, with the development of internal hyphae in root cortices. At the end of the study, high colonization occurred (48% to 54%) with no differences in P treatments. Plantlets transferred to soil began to actively grow with no lag phase. However, plant growth rate was significantly affected by treatments. Absence of P supply and lack of colonization resulted in lower dry mass and surface area of prickly pear cactus plants. In contrast, the combination of supplementary P and mycorrhizal colonization significantly increased plant growth.