Cactus Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) Productivity, Proximal Composition and Soil Parameters as Affected by Planting Time and Agronomic Management in a Semi-Arid Region of India
Study of appropriate planting time and response to agronomic management practices is imperative for the newly introduced cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.) into a semi-arid region of India. Responses of cactus pear to agronomic practices (planting time and irrigation and fertilizer application) were evaluated to determine the potential for fodder production and livestock feed in a semi-arid environment of India. We assessed four planting times (February, March, July and October) and two agronomic managements (with and without irrigation and fertilizer application) during 2016–2020 at Jhansi, India. Cactus pear establishment and growth improved with planting time in July and October due to favorable soil moisture and congenial temperature. However, plant height (19 cm) and cladode weight (118 g) were greater in July than in October planting. Nutrient uptake and crude protein contents, however, were higher for the earlier plantings of February and April compared to June and October. Irrigation and nutrients application had little effect on the cactus pear plant growth, except on plant width and cladode length and width. Cactus pear can be planted during July in moderately fertile soils without any agronomic intervention in semi-arid situations of India and has potential as an effective alternative source of forage for livestock during the summer months.