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Ecophysiology and fruit production of cultivated cacti


Cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica L. Mill.) is cultivated in wide range of environments with the consequence of large differences in crop potential, orchard system and management. These differences may be related to temperature and rainfall range (water availability) but also to the day/night length and, of course, to soil characteristics. Cactus pear can be utilized in the subsistence and in the market oriented agricultural systems of semi-arid areas. It is able to supply fruit, forage, folder and vegetables in specialized plantations or in multipurpose ones. Fruits can be harvested from July to November in the Northern hemisphere-Mediterranean Basin, California and Mexico-and from January to April in the Southern one, depending on genotype and genotype x environment interaction, Natural or induced reflowering may extend the ripening period in winter (January – February) in the Northern hemisphere and autumn (September – October) in the southern one. An almost continuous flow of flowering has been reported in Salinas, California, resulting in an extended fruit ripening period. Fruit are consumed fresh or after a relatively short period of post harvest storage. Recently, the diffusion of minimal processed fruits has become common, also to overcome problems related to the presence of glochids in the peel.