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Cactus Pear Could be the Sustainable Food and Fuel Crop of the Future

Fresh cactus fruit (prickly pear, opuntia) courtesy of Getty Images.

Fresh cactus fruit (prickly pear, opuntia) courtesy of Getty Images.

In the near future, could cactus pear become a major crop like soybeans and corn, and help provide a biofuel source, as well as a sustainable food and forage crop? According to a recently published study, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno believe the plant, with its high heat tolerance and low water use, may be able to provide fuel and food in places that previously haven’t been able to grow much in the way of sustainable crops.

Global climate change models predict that long-term drought events will increase in duration and intensity, resulting in both higher temperatures and lower levels of available water. Results of the study showed that Opuntia ficus-indica (cactus pear) had the highest fruit production while using up to 80% less water than some traditional crops. Funded by the Experiment Station and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, this study was also the first U.S. long-term field trial of exploring Opuntia species as a scalable bioenergy feedstock to replace fossil fuel. For more information, read the University of Nevada article.


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