NOTICE: Hard copies of the Australian New Crops Newsletter are available from the publisher, Dr Rob Fletcher. Details of availability are included in theAdvice on Publications Available.
Professor Yosef Mizrahi and Dr Avinoam Nerd
c/- University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury
Bourke St, Richmond, NSW, 2753 Australia
The remarkable agricultural production achieved in Israel is well known. In this article Professor Yosef Mizrahi and Dr Avinoam Nerd of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva gives an outline of studies conducted on new crops for desert areas in Israel. Professor Mizrahi will give full details of this work in a paper he will present at the ACOTANC-95 Conference in Lismore in September 1995.
Wild and Rare Fruit Trees as New Crops for Desert Areas
In 1985, a program was commenced in Israel to identify trees capable of producing fruits or nuts in desert areas.
A collection of wild or rare fruit or nut trees was introduced from around the world and these were planted in four introduction orchards around the Israeli Negev Desert. All orchards were irrigated with underground water, which was generally fairly saline.
Climatic conditions varied between the four sites; temperatures were extreme, ranging from of 0°C to 40°C; evaporation levels were high, ranging from 1916 mm to 3905 mm; and rainfall was low, ranging from 43 to 230 mm.
All species were monitored for survival, growth, phenology, flower and fruit biology, yield and fruit quality. Many of the introduced species have already produced fruits and selections have been made.
The following species appear to offer particular promise:
Cacti as Horticultural Crops
Mexico is one of the few countries which utilises cacti as foods. Most cacti fix CO2 by the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) pathway which has a high water use efficiency and is the reason why cacti are so well adapted to semi-arid and arid areas.
Flattened stem segments (cladodes) of the following species are used as a vegetable, known as 'nopal' or 'nopalitos' in Mexico; namely, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia amylclea, Opuntia streptacantha and Nopalea cochinillifera. These cladodes make tasty nutritious vegetables either eaten fresh or cooked in a small amount of water.
The cochineal insect, Dactylopius opuntiae, is grown on the cladodes of Opuntia ficus-indica as a source of the highly-valued red dye, caraminic acid.
The cactus pear, previously known as the prickly pear, is seen as one of the most promising of all the cacti fruits; its major problem is the very hard seeds which repel many consumers.
Many other columnar cacti produce attractive, tasty, colourful, soft-seeded fruits called pitayas or pitahaya. Sometimes the fruits are spineless, as with Hylocereus undatua, and several other species of the same genus, and Cereus peruvianus. Other columnar cacti have spines which abscise upon ripening, such as Selenicereus megalanthus which is already an export crop from Colombia; Stenocereus grisues, Stenocereus stellatus, Stenocereus gummosus and Stenocereus thurberei.
All of these species are now being grown in the Israeli Negev Desert and many have started to flower and set fruits. Several species raised from vegetatively propagated material are being tested at two locations on half hectare blocks.
Australians having some knowledge of the problems created by this plant, prickly pear (Opuntia vulgaris) in Queensland prior to the introduction of the Cactoblastis beetle can appreciate the risks involved in attempting to domesticate such species and develop new crop industries from them.
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:email@example.com
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originally created by:GK; latest update 6 June 1999 by: RF