Article Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI)

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  1. editorialteam

    editorialteam Active Member Staff Member

    Introduces US origin culinary cactus variety in India as animal fodder. Planting material provided. Based at Phaltan, Maharashtra

    Cactus used as animal fodder! Yes, this is a special variety cactus known as Opuntia. It responds well to the harsh sunny climate and is very easy to grow. Primarily it is a US origin plant introduced in India by Ms. Nandini Nimbkar, President, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI). Over a voice chat conversation she speaks about the plant in detail. Excerpts:
    Ms. Nandini Nimbkar, Nimbker Agricultural Research Institute 1a.jpg
    NARI is located in the semi-arid region where we receive low rainfall of 500mm annually. Hence 8-9 months, it is completely dry season. We have many farmers engaged in livestock farming namely dairy, goat and sheep so we were constantly on a lookout for some fodder alternatives. During one of our conference visit to Texas, USA we were introduced to Dr. Peter Felkar’s cactus collection where we found Opuntia cactus just right for us! And this is how we brought it here in Phaltan, Maharashtra, India. Later Dr. Felkar collaborated with many other Government organizations and the planting material is made widely available in the country.

    The cactus grows very well without much water and conversely it is extremely rich in water content close to 90%. It is a sturdy plant that survives in extreme high temperature but can’t bear cold temperature and water logging. Its’ scientific name is Nopalea Cochinellifera.

    Being a wild plant it needs minimum care and look after for cultivation. All it requires is a flat plant stem, cut into 6-8 pieces and cultivated in the soil. Through vegetative propagation natural process it keeps getting the news pads on one over the other. Spacing recommended is 2m*2m. It grows within a year if little irrigation is done else it might take some more time. If all farming requirements are met it can then be harvested after 12 months from the day of plantation. The fruiting takes a slightly longer time of 2-3 years.
    Nimbalker Agricultural Research Institute 2a.jpg
    This special variety, also known as Nopales does not have spines! This is the reason why it is referred as culinary cacti. It makes a good fodder for the animals. Though animals have responded well to the taste of cactus as fodder but it is only a supplementary component. It basically is good source of water and roughage for the animals while for meeting other dietary nutritive elements animals must be fed with proper fodder and foliage. The planting material is the flat clone rising from the plant stem. We sell is at Rs. 100/kg.

    In other parts of the world Opuntia is also processed in jams, jellies, wines and juices, safe for human consumption but in our country it is comparatively less known. It has good medicinal properties too. Precisely it has been reported the cactus has properties to bring down the levels of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. And of course wide range of cosmetics can be made using it as a key ingredient.

    In our country the plant has not been explored sufficiently but with some R&D activities its’ potential can be realized. We are doing best at our end to bring awareness on this cactus variety and encourage the farmers to experiment with Opuntia.

    Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is presently working on breeding program of safflower and sweet sorghum. The institute is also engaged in breeding activities for goat and sheep. NARI is a non-governmental organisation and non-profit research and development institute in VADJAL, Phaltan, Maharashtra, India. The institute undertakes R&D in the fields of agriculture, renewable energy, animal husbandry and sustainable development. The institute was founded in 1968 by Shri B. V. Nimbkar, who remained its president until 1990, then after Dr. Nandini Nimbkar became the president.

    Dr. Nimkbar has more than 25 years of experience in agriculture research, and is also a member of the senate and academic council of Shivaji University. She has overseen the setup of a large sweet sorghum breeding program at NARI. She did Doctorate in Agronomy from the University of Florida in 1981.

    Contact details:
    Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI)
    Tambmal, Phaltan-Lonand Road, MH SH 70,
    Phaltan, Maharashtra 415523
    Phone: (91)-2166-220945, (91)-2166-222396 or (91)-2166-222842.

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