Background and Objective: The cactus, Opuntia species represent a focal point in crop production that is used as a source of food, forage and soil conservation purposes. So, the main objective of this study was to study the genetic relationships between different Opuntia ecotypes, their adaptation to the Tunisian climatic conditions by changing their morphological traits and also to identify the most useful traits for discrimination among them. Materials and Methods: The genetic diversity among 45 ecotypes of Opuntia species, collected from 9 different regions of the world was investigated. This collection was assessed using the descriptors UPOV, The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. Results: The obtained data were analyzed by using principal component analysis (ACP) and 3 principal component (PC) axes accounted for 58.26% of the total cumulative variation. Average linkage cluster analysis was also performed and 5 main clusters were identified. The Tunisian Opuntia ficus-indica (Pr28) formed a separate group and displayed a distinct branching pattern indicating the native Tunisian originality. Conclusion: These results prove that this collection of Opuntia ecotypes must be kept as valuable genetic resources to enrich the Opuntia gene pool.
Thouraya Azizi-Gannouni, Youssef Ammari, Sarra Boudhina and Ali Albouchi, 2020. Assessment and Identification of Cactus (Opuntia spp.) Ecotypes Grown in a Semi-arid Mediterranean Region. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 23: 351-364.