UNR Cactus Research

Due to the Semi-arid environment and high temperatures, Moapa Valley is the perfect place to grow cacti! Because of this, UNR has chosen the Moapa Valley Cooperative Extension office as their ideal spot for their research involving cacti. The project started in March 2014 and is set for a five year run. The cactus field is located behind the Extension main office and is home to over 200 cacti.

Over the course of the five years, research team headed by Dr. John Cushman will be harvesting, weighing, and measuring the growth of the cacti. The purpose of the project is to test cacti as a viable bio fuel and alternative food source. As Cushman said, “Similar tests have been run in other countries, but the results were spotty. We are running this experiment under strict supervision and taking detailed accounts to have reliable information. This is the first definitive study of this kind in the country. We are really excited and encouraged by the results so far.”

The cacti are split into different groups depending on breed variety and amount of water received. There are three types of cacti being grown: Opuntia Ficus-Indica, Opuntia Streptacantha, and Nopalea Cochillefera recently renamed by Cushman to be Opuntia Cochillefera. The watering regime is differed among different sections of the cacti to test the effects of water usage on the mass of a cactus. Moapa Valley receives, on average, 108mm of precipitation a year. To show a dramatic and measurable change, Cushman and team set the water regime to output 200mm, 400mm, or 800mm over the course of the year.

The cactus research team is stationed in Reno, which makes it inconvenient for them to come and constantly care for the cacti. Because of this, the MV Extension office has received a grant to hire local high school students as temporary workers to maintain the cactus field. Local workers include:Gavin Henrie,  Brynne McMurray, Benjamin Muhlstein, and Austin Stewart.

For more information about the cactus project, visit the  webpage

Or see the article!