Final report: Group Training Course on Cactus Pear Evaluation & Best-Agronomic Practices
Cactus crops are gaining increasing interest across the globe, in particular cactus pear (Opuntia ficus indica), because of its unique characteristics which provide resilience to climate change impact and population pressure. Cactus pear can grow on land where no other crops are able to grow; it can be used to restore degraded land. In addition to its resilience as a crop, cactus pear is also increasingly appreciated for its multiple purposes. The fruit and young cladodes can be consumed by humans, and there is growing interest in its use as fodder. In collaboration with NARC, ICARDA has established a cactus germplasm at Mushaqqar station. The purposes of the field genebank are to evaluate various cactus accessions to the conditions of West Asia, use site as a training venue and increase awareness of partners about importance of cactus pear and how it should be cultivated (best agronomic practices). The Objectives of this course were: Provide participant information about the cactus pear requirements; Demonstrate cactus best agronomic practices; Learn how to evaluate and describe the different cactus accessions; Share experiences related to cactus cultivation and use in different countries; and Increase awareness about insect pests of cactus pear (cochineal). The Course topic: The training course was designed to include scientific information about cactus importance, characterization, cultivation, and use. The course includes theoretical (lectures) and practical aspects on:
Cactus pear reproductive biology; Principles of cactus evaluation, and data collection; Cactus pear best-agronomic practices for fodder production; Use of cactus for livestock feeding; Best agronomic practices for establishing cactus orchard (fruit production); and Fruit production and post-harvest management.
The five-day training course was held at the Ayass Hotel in Amman, Jordan, from 14–18 July 2019. The course was delivered by Dr. Mounir Louhaichi and Dr. Sawsan Hassan of the Rangeland and Forage Research Team, Resilient Agricultural Livelihood Systems Program, ICARDA, Jordan; Mr. Abderrahmane Ait Hamou, an agricultural engineer from Morocco; and Dr. Giorgia Liguori from the University of Palermo, Italy. Twenty-four participants attended: nine trainees from India, 11 from Jordan, one from Iraq, one from Palestine, one from Yemen, and one from Tunisia. They represented the following research institutes, universities, and NGOs: Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi, India;; Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Regional Research Station, Kukma-Bhuj, Gujarat, India;; BAIF Development Research Foundation in India, Urulikanchan, Pune, India;; Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology (OUAT), Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India;; Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Development, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India;; Agricultural Research Office, Baghdad, Iraq;; National Agricultural Research Center, Palestine;; National Agricultural Research Center, Jordan;; Jordan University of Science and Technology, Jordan; and King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.