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The Bamboo Crop Discovers America

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 18, 2012 11:52 AM
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by Glenn Meyers last modified Jan 17, 2012

Perhaps one gateway out of America’s economic doldrums will come in the form of a boom – call it a bamboo boom, if you wish. What once was simply regarded as only a tropical and oriental product now has a growing number of people interested in what it might yield as both a green crop and a cash crop.




 

 

Bamboo plantations are beautiful to behold.

Perhaps one gateway out of America’s economic doldrums will come in the form of a boom – call it a bamboo boom, if you wish. What once was simply regarded as only a tropical and oriental product now has a growing number of people interested in what it might yield as both a green crop and a cash crop.

More than a year ago, Popular Mechanics writer Harry Sawyers noted put it this way: “Bamboo has come into vogue as a green, sustainable resource that’s used for everything from cutting boards to clothing to wood floors. But until now, almost all of the bamboo in products sold here has come from overseas. That could change soon, as new planting techniques may lead to millions of new acres of bamboo shoots in the American South.”

Some agricultural visionaries even wonder if plants like bamboo can revitalize farmland on the Mississippi Delta.

The American Bamboo Society (ABS), formed in 1979, counts over 1,400 members living throughout the U.S. and in 37 other countries. For those who are interested, the ABS issues a bimonthly Magazine and the Journal to disseminate information about the use, care, propagation and beauty of bamboo.

Many regard bamboo as a wood product, due to its hardness and durability, but in reality it’s a large grass. Considered the largest of the grasses, there are over 1600 species of bamboo, 64 percent of which are native to Southeast Asia. Thirty-three percent grows in Latin America, and the rest in Africa and Oceania. In non-tropical North America there are just three native species of bamboo. Compare this to the 440 species that are native to Latin America, points out Master Garden Products.

Bamboo varies in height from dwarf, one-foot (30 cm) plants to giant timber bamboos that can grow to over 100 feet (30 m). It grows in many different climates, from jungles to high on mountainsides. Bamboos are further classified by the types of roots they have. Some, called runners, spread with a flourish, and others are classified as clumpers, which slowly expand from the original planting.

If interested in more about the plant, read author Paul Schneider. He has written prolifically about his love affair with bamboo, providing a cornucopia of information about growing the grass in colder climes. Schneider writes

“Bamboo has proven to be an aesthetic asset to our garden here in Cambridge, New York (north of Albany on the Vermont border; confirmed Zone 4). It mixes well with many other plants both perennial and annual. Depending on the species, it can be used as a tall or medium background plant, a “statement” plant or as a low border or ground cover plant.”

According to Patrick Malcolm, Golden Bamboo was the first of the Phyllostachys bamboo cultivars to be introduced into the United States, in 1882. In Alabama, bamboo was grown as a fast growing windbreak by southern tobacco farmers.

The poles from the golden bamboo have probably landed more fish in the southeastern U.S. than any other means of fishing, hence the name, fishing pole bamboo.

There are fundamental ROI issues, writes Sawyer: “But getting the revenue flowing could prove to be the biggest obstacle. Unlike cotton, which promises a return on investment at the end of a single growing season, bamboo crops must mature for three or four years before they’re ready for the first harvest.”

The wait sounds worth it.

Photo: American Bamboo Society



 

 

 
 
 

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