Nitrate levels and nitrate reductase activity (NRA) of the widely cultivated prickly-pear Opuntia ficus-indica were measured for 5-year-old orchard plants in the field between flowering and fruit ripening (May-August) and for rooted cladodes (stem segments) in a glasshouse in pots that were supplied with 0.8,4, or 16 mM nitrate during the early growth of new cladodes (6 weeks). Nitrate levels were much higher in the cladodes than in the fruit peels or the roots; in both cladodes and fruit peels, nitrate levels were higher in the inner water-storing layer (parenchyma) than in the outer green photosynthetic layer (chlorenchyma). NRA was confined to the cladode chlorenchyma and was higher in new cladodes than in the underlying cladodes. The orchard study suggested that the nitrate accumulated in 2- and 3-year-old cladodes served as a reserve for the growth of new organs. At the beginning of the reproductive season, such older cladodes had high nitrate levels of 7 mg/g DW in the chlorenchyma and 45 mg/g DW in the parenchyma, which decreased by 72% and 43%, respectively, by the end of the season. The glasshouse experiments indicated that the cladodes were more important for nitrate reduction than the roots, particularly under high external nitrate concentrations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agronomy and Crop Science