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Data are from Le Houérou (1992), Nobel (1994), and various Ministry of Agriculture reports.

Data are from Le Houérou (1992), Nobel (1994), and various Ministry of Agriculture reports.

agropastoral systems of arid and semiarid regions of the WANA region also includes supplementation with cactus in May through September (Table 12.2).

The search for plant species with the ability to grow and produce in arid areas has been a permanent concern in most WANA countries. The characteristics of cacti fit most of the requirements of a drought-resistant fodder crop, as described by De Kock (1980): (1) the crop must not only be able to withstand long droughts, but it must also be able to produce large quantities of fodder during periods of favorable rainfall that can be utilized during drought periods; (2) the crop must have a high carrying capacity; (3) the crop must not have an adverse effect on the health of the animals consuming it; (4) extensive utiliza tion should not have an adverse effect on the plants, i.e., the plants must have high recovery ability; (5) establishment and maintenance of the plantations must be cost effective and should have a low initial cost; and (6) the crop must be relatively undemanding with respect to soil and climatic requirements. Using these criteria, Opuntia ficus-indica has proved to be an important fodder crop in Tunisia, such as for feeding sheep (Fig. 12.1).

Increasing Usage of Cacti in Arid Zones

Cacti grow in "deserts" and are drought tolerant. Indeed, they possess a specialized photosynthetic mechanism, which leads to a more efficient production of dry matter per unit water consumed than that of grasses or legumes (Russell and Felker 1987; Nobel 1988, 1989; Chapter 4). Cacti produce fodder, fruit, and other useful products. They also can prevent the long-term degradation of ecologically weak environments. Cacti in general and Opuntia spp. in particular were introduced into the WANA region by Spanish moors in the 16th century (Le Houérou 1992). Nevertheless, only toward the end of the 20th century have large plantations been established. These create evergreen fodder banks to feed animals during drought and combat desertification as well.

Opuntia spp. used for animal feeding are abundant, easy and cheap to grow, palatable, and able to withstand prolonged droughts (Shoop et al. 1977). Such characteristics make them a potentially important feed supplement for livestock, particularly during periods of drought and seasons of low feed availability. The cladodes constitute the majority of the biomass of a platyopuntia and can be fed to livestock as fresh forage or stored as silage for later feeding (Castra et al. 1977). In any case, the idea of using cactus to feed livestock is not recent. Griffith (1905) confirmed

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