Climatic influences on fruit quality and sensory traits of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica): a 5-year evaluation

G.M. Coetzer, M. De Wit, H.J. Fouché, S.L. Venter
Cactus pears were introduced into South Africa and are used mainly as fodder crops. Interest in commercial fruit production has increased in the past few years. Since Opuntia ficus-indica and Opuntia robusta flourish in arid and semi-arid regions, it is worth looking into their potential not only as a fodder crop in dry seasons, but also for fruit production. Forty-two cultivars are being evaluated at an experimental orchard at Bloemfontein in the Free State Province in South Africa. Twelve cultivars with commercial fruit production potential were selected for evaluation of fruit eating quality as well as the effect of climate thereon. These were evaluated over five production seasons. Correlations were drawn on the influence of maximum temperature, heat units and rainfall on fruit quality. Rainfall had a significant positive effect on fruit mass, total soluble solids (TSS) content, glucose content, pulp pH and percentage titratable acidity (% TA), while it had a negative effect on percentage pulp and betacyanin (Bc) and betaxanthin (Bx) pigment contents. Fruit mass, TSS, glucose, fructose content and % TA correlated negatively with total heat units, while % pulp, vitamin C content, pulp pH, Bc and Bx correlated positively with total heat units. Maximum temperatures had similar effects on fruit quality to those observed for heat units, except for pulp pH. From these data, it is clear that all climatic factors measured correlated to changes in fruit quality, especially TSS, sugars, acidity and colour (pigments), although the effect of rainfall was most profound.
Coetzer, G.M., De Wit, M., Fouché, H.J. and Venter, S.L. (2019). Climatic influences on fruit quality and sensory traits of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica): a 5-year evaluation. Acta Hortic. 1247, 23-30
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1247.4
fruit quality, rainfall, accumulated heat units, maximum temperature

Acta Horticulturae