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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Parlier, California » San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center » Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #349202

Research Project: Develop Water Management Strategies to Sustain Water Productivity and Protect Water Quality in Irrigated Agriculture

Location: Water Management Research

Title: Desert plant for saline and drought stricken farmland: Assessment of Opuntia cactus nutritional characteristics

Author
item Centofanti, Tiziana - Fresno State University
item Banuelos, Gary
item Zambrano, Maria - Former ARS Employee
item Wallis, Christopher

Submitted to: Journal of Environment and Bio Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/31/2018
Publication Date: 4/1/2018
Citation: Centofanti, T., Banuelos, G.S., Zambrano, M.C., Wallis, C.M. 2018. Desert plant for saline and drought stricken farmland: Assessment of Opuntia cactus nutritional characteristics. Journal of Environment and Bio Research. 1(1):1-8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321310216.

Interpretive Summary: Cactus pear is remarkable for its ability to tolerate arid saline environments that are recognized as stressful for most plant species. Consequently, cactus pear can be cultivated with minimum agriculture inputs and has great potential for cultivation and production on degraded lands. In this three-year study, we assessed the physiological responses relative to nutraceutical quality in fruit juice extracted from Opuntia ficus-indica (USDA accession no. 248 and no. 255) that have been cultivated in saline, selenium (Se), and boron (B) rich soils in the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. Results indicate that the two selected accessions of Opuntia ficus-indica, can tolerate saline-, Se-, and B-impacted soils and produce fruit of nutritional value. Despite growing under high saline conditions, the nutritional characteristics in fruit juice (e.g., nutrients, total phenolics, ascorbic acid, pigments and flavonoids) of both accessions were not affected by long-term (3 years) exposure to excessive salinity and B. In addition, juice extracted from fruits collected from plants grown on the saline-, Se-, and B-rich soil and drainage sediment showed significantly higher concentrations of Se relative to juice from fruits collected from plants grown on non-saline (control) soil. Our results demonstrate that selected accessions of Opuntia ficus-indica should be considered as an alternative crop for the poor-quality soils of the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Technical Abstract: Cactus prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.) is native to the American Southwest and has been introduced in many other countries in the Mediterranean and western Pacific regions. Various commercial Opuntia clones have phenological, physiological, and structural adaptations favoring survival in arid environments, in which water is the main factor limiting the development of most plant species. In this study, we assessed the physiological responses, relative to fruit nutraceutical quality extracted from fruit juice of Opuntia ficus-indica (USDA accession no. 248 and no. 255) that have been cultivated in saline, Se-, and B-rich soils and drainage sediment for at least three years. In the fruit, we measured the total phenolic concentration and composition of polyphenol compounds, color, pH, soluble solids, and concentration of mineral nutrients in whole fruit juice. Fruit juice pH ranged 4.7- 5.7, soluble solids ranged 9.3 – 14.0% (measure of maturity and related to sugar content), ascorbic acid ranged 0.8 – 1.7 mg ml-1, total phenolics ranged between 500 and 1,000 mg GAE L-1, and selenium concentrations were significantly high. Betanin, a betalain pigment, had the highest concentration in both accessions among all compounds analyzed. Our data confirm the potential of prickly pear fruit juice produced from plants grown under poor growing conditions as a source of natural healthy colorants that are rich in antioxidants and may provide protection against oxidative damage. Overall, our study indicates that the two selected accessions, no. 248 and no. 255 of Opuntia ficus-indica, can be grown under high saline, B, and drought conditions, and their nutritional characteristics in fruit juice (as analyzed in this study e.g., nutrients, total phenolics, ascorbic acids and pigments, and flavonoids) are not affected by adverse growing conditions. The prickly-pear plants may be considered as a viable alternative crop to consider for the westside soils of the San Joaquin Valley.