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Prickly Pear Delight

Cash crops might be getting a new family member in the coming years, and they might want to prep for the big, warm hug from cousin cacti.

According to researchers at the University of Nevada, there’s a notion the low-maintenance cactus pear crop could provide fuel and food in places previously inhospitable to sustainable crops.

Prickly potential: The five-year-long research has shown the prickly pear cactus uses up to 80% less water than other crops to produce fruit. While crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat are a little pricklier about moisture, cactus plants are better equipped to withstand drought. With 42% of land area around the world classified as semi-arid or arid, the cactus’ potential could be sharp.

Carbon catchers: The cactus pear also works to succ(ulent) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in a sustainable way.

Growing the cactus in areas that aren’t suitable for other crops can also help expand bioenergy production. And it can be used for human and livestock consumptionCraving prickly pear cactus jelly yet?

Sticking to it: Further research is in the works to learn about a stunting disease and look at which genetic traits provide the greatest production.