Journal of Undergraduate Research


fresh weight yield, low tunnels, nitrogen fertilization, opuntia, cactus pear


Life Sciences


Plant and Wildlife Sciences


With the global human population spiraling upward and the intensity of climate-change-induced drought events increasing, there is a growing need for identifying and developing highly productive, stress-tolerant crops that can be cultivated in marginal lands (Yang et al., 2015). Species within the Opuntia genus exhibit several traits, which enable them to withstand drought while growing in nutrient-poor soils (Nobel, 2010). However, these Opuntia species lack sufficient cold hardiness to be produced beyond northern Mexico (Felker et al., 2006) despite an increase in consumer demand of these pads from the Intermountain West and other parts of the U.S (Huffcut, 2004). Our work focused on identifying cold-hardy, high-yielding Opuntia species that can be produced more locally to satisfy growing consumer demand. We found that when grown in a high-elevation desert, such as Utah, moderate nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilization and the protection by plastic sheeting low-tunnels slightly enhanced survival and fresh weight yield of O. ellisiana and other Opuntia species.