Prosopis tamarugo F. Phil.
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Tree produces abundant fodder, palatable to sheep, cattle and goats. It is
said that older stands will support 26 sheep per hectare. The wood, though
hard and difficult to work, is used for furniture and firewood. Man-made
tamarugo plantations are being introduced in the Tamarugal Pampa which
are transforming the absolute desert ecosystem into an agroecosystem. The
result, is a noteworthy increase in overall productivity in one of the most
inhospitable regions of the world (Habit et al., 1981). The potential value of
the tamarugo was noted as early as 1918 when Maldonado, a forest inspector
called for a tamarugo forest preserve, considering it most important for the
Chilean desert (Burkart, 1976).
No data available.
Per 100 g, the fruit is reported to contain 3.34 g H2O, 11.14 g protein, 1.62 g
fat, 79.63 g total carbohydrate, 31.45 g fiber, 4.27 g ash, 280 mg Ca, and
1,440 mg P. Leaves were analyzed at 94.7% H2O, 90.53% dry matter, 9.98% total
protein, 10.72% crude fiber, 1.9% ether extract, 45.91% N-free extract, 22.02%
ash, 2.82% Ca, and 0.91% P (Habit et al, 1981). By contrast Gohl (1981)
| || ||As % of dry matter|
| ||DM || CP ||CT || Ash || EE || NFE ||Ca ||P|
|Browse, Chile || 89.3 ||10.7 ||32.1 || 5.0 || 2.7 ||49.5 ||3.98 ||0.12|
|Leaves, Chile || 88.5 ||9.9 ||15.8 || 20.3 ||2.0 || 52.0 || 6.21 ||0.11|
|Pods, Chile ||91.1 ||11.7 ||41.5 || 4.6 ||1.6 ||40.6 || 0.33 ||0.13|
|Seeds, Chile || 92.5 ||10.1 ||38.4 || 7.5 ||0.7 ||43.3 ||0.36 ||1.50|
| || ||Digestibility (%)|
| ||Animal ||CP ||CF ||EE ||NFE ||ME |
|Browse || Sheep || 55.0 || 25.0 ||47.0 ||38.0 ||1.32|
|Pods ||Sheep || 55.0 || 50.0 ||50.0 || 74 0 ||2.18|
Felker and Bandurski (1979) report that the embryo and seed coat contain 27%
Table 15. Average composition of various tamarugo components for cattle
(Source: Habit et al., 1981)
|Plant component || DM (%) ||CP (%) ||EE (%) || CF (%) ||NFE (%) || Ash (%)|
|Whole-fruit ||94.40 ||13.30 ||1.40 || 34.20 ||44.80 ||6.40|
|Fruit without seed ||87.25 ||13.27 || 0.95 ||31.67 ||44.83 || 9.28|
|Seed || 90.77 ||27.30 ||5.33 ||10.84 ||50.45 || 6.08|
|Dry leaves without rachis || 91.70 || 13.55 || 1.69 || 9.90 ||52.63 ||22.23|
|Dry leaves || 91.43 ||9.04 ||1.77 ||22.25 ||55.41 ||11.53|
|Rachis of dry leaves ||88.15 ||11.27 || 1.78 ||15.98 ||50.68 ||20.29|
|Green leaves || 43.71 || 35.69 || 2.97 ||31.55 ||1.38 ||28.41|
|Dry leaves with rachis ||90.53 ||11.02 || 1.09 ||11.84 ||50.73 || 24.32|
|Fruit ||96.66 ||11.52 || 1.68 ||32.51 ||49.86 ||4.43|
Pak et al. (1977) present detailed nutritional analyses with comments also on
Table 1. Chemical composition (g/100g dry weight) and caloric content (g/100g
dry weight), of fruit, seeds and leaves of tamarugo (Prosopis
* n.d. = not determined.
| ||Ash ||Crude |
|Ripe fruit ||4.57 ||9.2 || 1.4 ||29.9 ||55.0 ||408|
|Green fruit || 4.54 ||12.9 ||1.3 ||30.4 ||50.9 ||n.d.*|
|Seed ||3.34 ||27.1 ||3.7 ||9.5 ||55.4 ||446|
|Dry leaf ||13.95 ||11.3 || 1.3 || 13.4 || 60.6 || 351|
|Green leaf ||9.80 ||15.9 ||3.3 ||14.7 ||56.5 ||420|
Table 2. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and sodium concentrations
(g/100 g dry weight) and Ca/P, K/Na ratios in tamarugo
| ||Calcium ||Phosphorus ||Magnesium || Potassium ||Sodium || Ca/P || K/Na|
|Ripe fruit ||0.22 ||0.27 ||0.10 || 2.09 || 0.05 ||0.8 ||41.8|
|Green fruit || 0.24 ||0.26 ||0.13 ||2.20 ||0.08 ||0.9 ||27.5|
|Seed ||0.19 ||0.21 ||0.26 ||1.11 || 0.03 ||0.9 ||37.0|
|Dry leaf ||3.55 ||0.19 ||0.46 ||1.62 || 0.11 ||18.7 ||14.7|
|Green leaf ||1.44 ||0.25 ||0.39 ||1.86 || 0.03 || 5.8 ||62.0|
Table 3. Iron, copper, molybdenum, zinc, cobalt and manganese
(parts/106 dry weight) and Cu/Mo ratio in tamarugo
*n.d. = not determined.
| ||lron ||Copper ||Molybdenum ||Zinc || Cobalt ||Manganese ||Cu/Mo|
|Ripe fruit || 90 ||12 ||4.5 ||21 ||0.06 ||30 ||2.7|
|Green fruit ||110 ||12 ||n.d.* ||27 ||n.d.* ||32 ||--|
|Seed ||160 || 20 || 5.2 ||72 ||0.10 ||51 ||3.9|
|Dry leaf ||460 ||17 ||2.5 || 24 ||0.03 ||369 || 6.8|
|Green leaf ||230 ||24 ||13.4 || 42 ||0.12 ||136 ||1.8|
Cyanogenetic glucosides and alkaloids, were not detected in any of the samples,
saponins were only found in green fruits and seeds, both in low percentages,
0.007 and 0.010% respectively. The seeds appeared to have simultaneous
presence of antitryptic factor (2.3 trypsin inhibited units per milligiam of
defatted dry sample) and haemagglutinins (6.0 units per milligram protein) (Pak
et al., 1977).
Deciduous open-crowned tree up to 18 m tall, the trunk to 80 cm in diameter;
with a dense mat of lateral roots and deep taproot (to 6 m deep on tree 15 m
tall). Flowers golden yellow, in long axillary cylindrical spikes. Stipules
spiny, 538 mm long. Leaves unijugate, the pinnae 34 cm long or less, with
1015 pairs of leaflets; leaflets linear obtuse or acutish, 48 mm long. Pod
arcuate, turgid, brown or stramineous, 28 cm long, 23.5 cm in diameter with
ca 68 seeds embedded in a brownish edible pulp, seeds ovate, 34.3 mm long,
brown (Burkart, 1976). Calyx 1.5 mm long; corolla 45 mm long; ovary villous.
Reported from the South American Center of Diversity, tamarugo, or cvs thereof,
is reported to tolerate drought, high pH, salt, and sand. (2n = 28)
Native to that part of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile known as Pampa del
Tamarugal, an island salt desert about 40 km wide and 300 km long. Also
planted in Argentina and recommended for other saline deserts of the world.
Found on salty-sandy or clay loam soils, occasionally with a 40-cm salt
incrustation. In its native habitat the tree ranges from 10001500 m
elevation. Ranging from Warm Temperate Desert to Thorn Steppe through
Subtropical Desert toSubtropical Thorn Forest Life Zones, tamarugo, or cvs
thereof, is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of (0-)3 to 5 dm, annual
temperature of 12 to 20°C, and pH of 6.8 to 8.0. The desert ecosystem of
the Tamarugal Pampa is highly specific. The climate is the normal desert
climate; the most biologically significant factors are: high day-time
temperatures, great day-to-night temperature range, almost total lack of
rainfall, occasional mist, relatively low humidity and intense sunlight. The
soils are composed of deposits of fluvial origin from the cordillera of the
Andes, and have a surface salt crust ranging in thickness from 1060 cm or
more. Under certain conditions of atmospheric humidity, tamarugo absorbs water
through its leaves, transporting it to the root system and depositing it in the
micro-rhizosphere, whence it is reabsorbed along with the soil nutrients. This
explains why measurements of mean annual evaporation show much higher rates
outside than inside the forest area, where a mere fraction of the water is lost
in evaporation. This is also why tamarugo trees are found in areas where the
ground water table lies 40 m deep and has no contact with the roots of trees
(Habit et al, 1981). According to Burkart (1976) the leaves absorb water
through their stomata when the relative humidity of the air >95%.
Variations in salinity of groundwater had little or no effect on growth rate
but distance from water table. The greater the depth to groundwater the
smaller the height growth of the trees, tending to minimize the importance of
absorption of water from atmosphere (Felker, 1982).
For rooting cuttings a 34°C air temperature and vermiculite medium is
recommended. N fixation in tamarugo may be limited. Since the leaf N content
appears to be sensitive to phosphorus levels, there is hope that pod N levels
may also be P-sensitive. Pods are generally 10% crude protein 3% short of the
13% crude protein level required for good animal growth. In N-fixing systems,
phosphate has tremendous leverage over dry matter production. N:P levels are
generally ca 10:1, and N:DM ratios ca 1.5:100. Thus every kg deficient P that
is corrected has the opportunity to provide 600 kg DM. Habit et al. (1981)
cite the following planting instructions: Use a 2:1 mixture of earth and guano.
Plant in unperforated plastic bags, 12 cm in diameter, 30 cm long, filled with
this mixture and placed in a carefully-levelled planting bed. Water to
saturation. Sow three to five seeds a depth of 1.5 cm. First treat with
sulfuric acid for 7 minutes, then wash and let dry in shade. Keep the surface,
where the seeds are planted, wet, but do not accumulate water in the bottom of
the bags, as this encourages fungus growth. Treat the soil with fungicide
before sowing to avoid fungus attack. Once seeds germinate, give more water
but at greater intervals, to ensure moisture for the downward-growing roots.
Avoid excessive use of water. Keep seedlings in nursery 3 to 5 months, until
they are 8 to 10 cm tall. Be sure the roots do not pierce the plastic.
Plantation spacings in the Tamarugal Pampa are at 10 x 10 m and 15 x 15 m,
taking into consideration the tree's growth and its function as fodder. A pit
is dug in the ground and in it a hole is made 20 cm in diameter and 50 cm deep,
abundantly manured with guano. Pit depth depends on terrain, usually 80 cm in
diameter by 3070 cm deep, varying according to depth of salt crust which must
be penetrated before making the planting hole.. Before planting, water hole to
saturate soil as far down as possible. Split the bottom of the plastic bags at
planting so roots can pass through. Remove plastic bags with care to avoid
breaking the cylinder of earth. There must be enough water to penetrate to the
roots and keep them moist. It is most important to avoid excess watering,
which shows up at the first stages of the seedlings as a "fall" due to fungi,
and later as a yellowing of the leaves. Plants are established when they send
out new shoots. When this occurs, watering can be spaced at intervals of 20
days, though care should be taken to ensure that the water penetrates properly.
If there is moisture in the subsoil, it is advisable to determine whether the
roots have reached it by suspending watering and observing the reaction of the
Sheep and goats feed on fallen leaves and pods (fresh seed produced from
October to January). Harvested for firewood as needed, the tree coppices
In their tabulation, Felker and Bandurski (1979) list yields of 12 MT/ha leaves
and pods. According to Habit et al. (1981), the average yield of fruit per
tree is 2.1 kg/m2 of crown projection, even higher with adult trees.
With insecticides, single tree yield increased from 105 to 210 kg, translating
to 10 MT pods/ha. Felker suggests 5 MT. Aerial application of insecticides
was suggested. Chileans estimate cost of aerial application at $1520(US)/ha
and the heptachlor at $24 for the 4 liters required, for a total cost of $35/ha
compared to $500/ha for ground application. High quality Prosopis wood retails
for $6.00 per board foot ($2,540 per cu m) when cut, planed, and cured.
Straight growing trees of algarobo occur in Argentina. One could get straight
pieces 4 m long and 40 cm in diameter in 20 years. This wood, after being cut,
planed, and dried would be worth at least $300 per tree, or $36,000 per ha
Felker (1982) estimates that prunings from a tree would be 200 kg (not
annually) suggesting 20 MT/ha. These could be converted to chips with a
heating value of 18,000 BTU/kg. Felker (1982) suggests that trees should be
pruned every 610 years, removing the lower branches which may preclude animals
from eating the fallen pods. The 200 kg/tree prunings could be chipped and
blown into a truck at a cost of ca $10/ton. The chips are estimated to produce
energy at the rate of $1.47 per million Btu's, about 1/4 the cost of oil
energy. Tractor driven chippers are available at $3,000 to $12,000 (US). If
there were no market for chips, or charcoal were not available, a small
wood-fired turbine could convert the wood to electricity. Felker notes that
Aerospace Corporation of Virginia sells 3000 kilowatt wood fired gas generators
for ca $2,250,000 (US). They consume ca 3 MT/hr generating 3,000 KWH at $0.15
KWH. At 15 trees per hour and 100 trees/ha, 1,314 ha would need be pruned
every year to fuel the generator. Cross yearly electrical sales would be
$4,000,000 (US) (Felker, 1982).
Habit et al. (1981) present detailed information on the insect pests of
tamarugo, listing Leptotes trigemmatus (purple moth), Tephrinopsis
memor (measuring worm), Hemiberlesia rapax, Heteropysylla texana,
Aphis sp. (tamarugo louse), cecidomids, Eriophyes tamarugae,
Ithome sp. (flower moth), Leptotes trigemmatus, Tephrinopsis memor,
Frankliniella rodeos (tamarugo thrips), Crytophlebia carpophagoides
(fruit moth), and Scutobruchus gastoi (tamarugo worm). Despite its
anemophilous pollenization, insect participation seems important to
fructification. The solitary bee Centris mixta is the most important
insect pollinator. Imported Apis mellifera served as a good pollinator
and honey producer (Habit et al., 1981). In addition to enumerating insect
pests and control mechanisms, Habit et al. (1981) enumerate associated animals
and plants. Marked increases in pod production were evident following
insecticide treatment. Untreated tamarugo showed considerable abortion of
young pods, much pod stunting, disfiguration, and insect holes (bruchid
emergence holes). Rhizobia capable of nodulating tamarugo are being multiplied
at INTEC (Felker, 1982). Hectares of dead tamarugo trees were suspected to be
fungal infestations, transmitted through root graftings. Felker et al. (1981)
review the pest infestations of their Prosopis plantings with
suggestions for their control.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Burkart, A. 1976. A monograph of the genus Prosopis (Leguminosae subfam.
Mimosoideae). J. Arn. Arb. 57(3/4):219249; 450525.
- Felker, P. 1982. analyses and recommendations for further development of
tamarugo (Prosopis tamarugo) and algarrobo (P. section
algarobia) plantations in the Salar de Pintados of Northern Chile. A
report to Sr. Luis Zelada Gonzalez, Programa del Pampa del Tamarugal. CORFO.
Casilla 2915, Santiago, Chile.
- Felker, P. and Bandurski, R.S. 1979. Uses and potential uses of leguminous
trees for minimal energy input agriculture. Econ. Bot. 33(2):172184.
- Felker, P., Cannell, G.H., Clark, P.R., Osborn, J.F., and Nash, P. 1981.
Screening Prosopis (mesquite) species for biofuel production on semiarid
lands. Final Report to US DOE. NTIS. Springfield, VA.
- Gohl, B. 1981. Tropical feeds. Feed information summaries and nutritive values.
FAO Animal Production and Health Series 12. FAO, Rome.
- Habit, M.A., Contreras, T.D., and Gonzalez, R.H. 1981. Prosopis
tamarugo: fodder tree for arid zones. FAO Plant Protection Paper 25. FAO,
- Pak, N., Araya, H., Villalon, R., and Tagle, M.A. 1977. Analytical study of
tamarugo (Prosopis tamarugo) an autochthonous Chilean food. J. Sci. Fd.
Last update Thursday, January 8, 1998 by aw