Title : Ex situ conservation and in vitro multiplication of potential cactus species resistant to cochineal and productive of fruits consumable in Morocco
Cactus pear genus Opuntia spp is a very important fruit crop in Moroccan agriculture, and especially resistant to droughts. This succulent plant contributes to guarantee the sustainability and remediation of an ecosystem with much degraded vegetation. It is very rich in biomolecules with high therapeutic and medicinal potential especially (β-Sitosterol, α-tocopherol, betalains and polyphenols). Currently this plant is threatened with extinction by cochineal Dactylopius coccus since 2014. However, measures to struggle this scourge remain ineffective in the face of the propagation of this insect. In Morocco, Rhamna region is the more infested. Our study is based on three objectives: Ex situ conservation of cactus genetic resources in Rhamna area, by creation a collection of different genotype, and more precisely the species sensitive to cochineal, and which have a socio-economic interest. The phenotypical aspect and morphological traits allowed classifying the ecotypes collected in fourteen species. Each species has its own chemical and nutritional phenological characteristics. The second goal is the characterization resistant cochineal species productive a good quality of fruit and seed oil with a high yield, based on farmers surveys and bioassays. Then, intensive multiplication the cochineal resistant cactus by innovative biotechnological method superior to classical method. Our observations showed that four species are putatively resistant to cochineal. These species have the particularity to be Xoconostles or acidic cactus pears, are fruits prized for their fleshy and acidic mesocarp. In perspective, the plants derived from tissue culture must be confirmed they are resistance to cochineal in the field prior to providing plants to clients. In addition, we will limit the genetic erosion of cactus species in Morocco.