Today, we are into a discussion of Cactus Farming in India/How To Grow Cactus Plants.
Cultivation of Cactus is Cactus farming. Nowadays Cactus farming is becoming a profitable agricultural enterprise in the field of Agriculture sector. Cactus belongs to the plant family Cactaceae. Edible Cactus plant is known as Opuntia or Prickle pear. There are many uses of this edible Cactus. Cactus farming is also known as Prickle Pear farming. Cactus is a xerophytic plant that has the ability to grow in severe water scarcity conditions. This ability is also the major reason for becoming Cactus farming famous in the recent past. Many farmers are unaware of this Cactus farming. Therefore, we have come up with this information on Cactus farming.
What is Cactus?
- Cactus is a xerophytic plant that can grow up to a height of 5-7 meters.
- The edible parts of the Cactus are either modified leaves or flowers. The leaves are known as crowns.
- The cactus crowns grow with a width up to 3 meters and the diameter may vary up to 1 meter.
- Mostly indigenous Cactus plants have spines or thorns on its leaves. However, there are some exotic Cactus varieties that are thornless.
- There are many uses of cactus as a source of food for humans as well as fodder or forage food for cattle.
Cactus as a source of human food
- Cactus acts as a good source of food for humans in the present past. There are many health benefits to eating cactus.
- The edible part of Cactus I both fruit and the modified stem. The fruits are known as prickly pear or Cactus fig or Indian fig. It is also known as Tuna in Spanish.
- In countries like Mexico, prickly pears are often used in making appetizers, soups, and salads, bread, desserts, beverages, candy, jelly and cactus drinks too. However, that variety of dishes or drinks are often made in India too.
- The young stems of cactus are called as Nopales. Those Nopales acts like a vegetable. Nopales can be used in cooking curries, salads, and other recipes.
- There are even famous food outlets that serve cactus recipes.
Cactus as a fodder crop
- As the Cactus has a lot of nutritional value, they are fed to Cattles. Cactus is a good forage crop for many farmers who are doing farming in drought-prone areas or arid to semi-arid climate conditions.
- Cactus as a fodder crop has the capacity to address the problem shortage of green fodder, especially during the summer season when high temperatures along with water scarcity threaten food security in many regions of the country.
- In addition, it acts a good nutritional fodder for many of the cattle like horses, buffaloes, sheep, etc.
- Most of the farmers cannot grow fodder crops like Napier grass, fodder maize and paddy as those require huge quantities of water to cultivate. In such an area, cactus farming plays an important role in meeting the farmer needs as it does not require huge quantities of water and the cost of cultivation is very low.
Nutritional value of cactus or Prickle pear
Raw Cactus leaves
Water – 88%
Carbohydrates – 10% of proteins and
Fats is less than 1 %.
100 gm of Cactus feed provides
41 Calories of energy,
17% of the Daily Value of vitamin C and
24% daily value for magnesium.
Medicinal value of Cactus
- Cactus has a lot of medicinal value and are a rich source of many medicinal properties.
- They contain a wide range of phytochemicals like polyphenols, betalians and dietary minerals that are essential in the human diet.
- They may contain gallic acid, catechins, and vanillic acids.
- Prickle pear also has compounds like Betanin and Betalain.
- The Cactus pulp juice helps in curing wounds, inflammatory problems easy passage of urinary tracts.
- Eating Cactus improves human digestion and also helps in decreasing the weight loss.
- In addition, it also helps in keeping the skin healthy, controlling diabetes.
- Furthermore, cactus also helps in preventing cancer.
The scope of Cactus Farming:
As there are many advantages of cactus as mentioned above, there is a huge scope for cactus Farming. Noticing these pros of cactus Farming, many individuals and small scale entrepreneurs are entering into this Cactus Farming business. However, it is not that easy to do Cactus farming when you are unaware of practices in Cactus farming like propagation, maintenance, packaging and marketing of Cactus or Cactus fruits.
How to Start Cactus Farming:
It is easy to start Cactus Farming. Only you need is a branch or leaves of the cactus plant. The leaves of Cactus are to be planted at a depth of 5 to 7 cm below the soil. Within a few days, the propagated plant grow into a new plant. However, there is no need for investing in land preparation as it requires very less quantity of water and maintenance. There are only a few steps To Start Cactus Farming like propagation, planting, maintenance, harvesting and marketing of Cactus.
Propagation of Cactus plants or Opuntia
- Select the available edible Opuntia plants near your field. Opuntia is nothing but the edible cactus plants.
- Cut the leaf of that Opuntia plant or some flat leaves and sow them in your Cactus Farm. Within a few days, it produces new plants and flowering also starts as soon as the plant attains its vegetative phase.
- However, there are also some tissue culture techniques to produce some varieties of cactus plants.
Planting methods in Cactus Farm:
You can grow or plant the Cactus either in diagonal rows or in rectangular rows. However, both the methods of planting in Cactus framing is beneficial. In addition, you can also grow Cactus as a fence in the field that serves as a border
fence crop which prevents the entry of vertebrate pests into the main field. In addition, you may also go for mixed or alley or intercropping systems in Cactus farm which is also a beneficial farming system.
Maintenance of cactus farm
- Cactus is a xerophyte and doesn’t require water to grow. However, go for a drip system to get harvest Cactus in less time.
- There also less or fewer pests that host Cactus plants. Therefore there is no need for any spraying of chemicals.
Harvesting in Cactus Farm
- Harvesting is done when the plant attains a height of 4 to 6 mt. At those times, harvest the flattened leaves and do pack the leaves immediately after harvesting in order to prevent the loss of shelf life of the cactus leaves. However, the shelf life of cactus leaves is comparatively higher than other crops.
- Pack the flat leaves in plastic containers or wrap the flat leaves with polythene a place them in plastic tray or crates.
Marketing of Cactus:
The market for cactus farming is increasing rapidly in recent days. There are food outlets like Olive Bistro in Hyderabad that purchase cactus leaves or Prickle pears. Such outlets serve various juices and salads made from cactus leaves and fruits which are becoming famous nowadays as it is healthy in having Cactus in our regular diet. However, there are also some processing industries that process cactus leaves for medicinal purpose. There are also some pharmaceutical industries that purchase cactus from the Cactus farms itself.
The scope of Cactus Farming in India
- There is a huge scope for Cactus Farming in India as the raw material for various farming systems is available easily in the country.
- Northern parts of India are mostly arid and semi arid region which completely depends upon rain for growing cereals as well as fodder crops. In such areas, where there is less available water to grow fodder crops, cactus Farming helps in overcoming this challenge and helps in feeding the cattle with nutritious fodder.
- In addition, nowadays, people are becoming aware of the medicinal and nutritional value of Cactus which also helps in increasing the scope of Cactus Farming broadly.
- In addition, as Cactus Farming requires less investment than other commercial crops, many marginal and small farmers have a chance to gain more margins from this Cactus Farming business.
Read: How To Grow Noni Fruit.