Biocontrol of Opuntia Weeds

Prickly Pear Biocontrol

Video: Biocontrol of Opuntia in Kenya

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Video: Biocontrol of Opuntia

(embedded from Youtube)

Invasive Opuntia Weeds

Prickly Pear Weeds

Opuntia in Africa
Opuntia in Africa

Prickly pear cactus weeds are invasive and unwanted aliens in many environments. There is the potential for Opuntia invasion in many warm and dry parts of the world such as Australia and Africa. The most serious prickly pear weeds appear to be O. dillenii, O. stricta, and O. ficus indica, but other invasive Opuntia species are known as well as Cylindropuntia species. Though they have the potential to provide forage for animals and food for humans, opuntia plants can rapidly overrun disturbed areas such as crop lands and pastures. They create impenetrable thickets that displace native plants. Animals are often injured when they feed on Opuntia cladodes and fruits.

An Opuntia infestation in Australia in the early 20th century was successfully controlled by the introduction of the cactus moth which fed on the prickly pears. Related biocontrol efforts are underway in parts of Africa, but these employ the cochineal insect. 

 

Video: Opuntia Invasion of Africa (Part One)

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Video: Opuntia Invasion of Africa (Part Two)

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Video: Opuntia Invasion of Africa (Part Three)

(embedded from YouTube)

Opuntias and Desert Survival?

Tortoise Eating Opuntia
Tortoise Eating Opuntia

Eating Prickly Pears

Opuntia species area ubiquitous in The West, occurring with great frequency in some areas. Prickly pears were used as food, medicines, and perhaps as awls by Native Americans and can still serve as food, either the pads or the fruits. These videos show how wild prickly pears can be prepared for consumption. One of the major challenges is to remove the spines, this is generally done with fire. 

Campers ready for a bit of the Old West can pick Opuntia pads or fruit and prepare them around a campfire, adding authenticity to a trip away from home. It is less clear how prickly pears can serve as survival food, but a video is included here to illustrate such an idea. Certainly, nopales are consumed throughout Mexico and Central America as a vegetable, but those plants are completely different from the wild opuntia species of the Southwest. For one thing the nopales cladodes are nearly spineless at a young age, and whatever spines there are may be removed by expert scraping with a knife. Also, the young pads are flexible and not woody or hard. 

Nonetheless, the fruits of native prickly pears are valued by some people for their exotic nature and sweetness. Opuntia syrups and jams make excellent additions to other dishes. But, it is important to know which prickly pear to consume. For instance, the fruits of O. lindheimeri are nearly noxious, whereas the fruits of O. engelmannii are sweet. Also, old fruits from the past season may be hard and lack juice even while they are plump and red and look delicious. 

 

How To Campfire Cook Cactus Pads

(embedded from TouTube)

 

How to Pick and Eat Prickly Pear Fruit

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Desert Survival with Opuntias (?)

(embeddled from YouTube)

Health Benefits of Opuntia

Nopalitos with Rice and Avocado
Nopalitos with Rice and Avocado

Health Benefits of Prickly Pears

Opuntia (nopales) has many health benefits if you eat the pads or the fruits. 

Additionally, the plants will grow in arid climates and provide crop alternatives.

Health Benefits of Opuntia

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Food Security and Opuntias

(embedded from YouTube)

 

TOP 8 Surprising Health Benefits of Prickly Pears

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Prickly Pear Jelly

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Grafting Cacti Onto Opuntia Rootstock

Grafting with Opuntia
Grafting with Opuntia

Grafting with Opuntia

Some cacti naturally grow slowly from seeds. Some cacti do not produce offsets, making propagation difficult. Some cacti are subject to disease when grown on their own roots. Some cactus mutants are unable to photosynthesize because they don’t have chlorophyll. Some cacti are naturally very small. Some cacti don’t bloom well on their own. All of these problems can be solved with grafting. Grafting plants is a widespread practice in agriculture (e.g., grapes or fruit trees) where it can be difficult. Grafting cacti is particularly easy. 

Grafted Opuntia, lashpin.org
Grafted Opuntia, lashpin.org

Grafting involves the fusion of two components. Essentially all cacti can be grafted (fused together). They are compatible with one another. A shoot (scion) is fused with a rootstock (base of the graft). Thus, there is a top part of the grafted plant that is different from the base of the grafted plant. The rootstock is usually chosen to be a plant that grows well on its own roots and that photosynthesizes well. The scion may be any cactus, but is usually a cactus that benefits from a strong rootstock. 

Although many types of cacti are used as rootstock, one of the most common is an Opuntia. Several different Opuntia species are used including O. humifusa because it is a strong grower that is cold-tolerant and resists most diseases. Another rootstock is O. fragilis

 

Tubercles Grafted Onto Opuntia Rootstock

(embedded from YouTube)

 

Grafting Cacti onto Small Opuntias

(embedded from YouTube)