Bamboo Farming - Good or Bad for the environment

Bamboo Farming - Good or Bad for the environment

Did you know bamboo is one of the few crops that have a specialized international organization for its promotion? 

Yes, that's true!

The INBAR - International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation is an independent intergovernmental organisation established in the year 1997 to develop and promote innovative solutions to elevate poverty and bring environmental sustainability using bamboo and rattan. 

Bamboo cultivation is a vast agro-farming industry worth 72 billion dollars globally as of 2019. Many international governmental organisations promote bamboo farming because of its high sustainability. Bamboo has the versatility and tendency to grow on fertile as well as marginal land, making it a highly profitable cultivation crop. Moreover, when bamboo is planted, it renews itself and regrows after cultivation. The farmer doesn't need to replant after every cultivation. It is a highly environment and climate-friendly crop that absorbs nearly 100 - 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. 

Though bamboo produces wood that is as strong as oak, maple, timber or other hardwoods, it is not a tree. It is a tall growing plant that belongs to the grass variety. Also, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world, with a few varieties growing up to one meter daily. 

Though bamboo is undoubtedly one of the best agro-farming crops, the decision to farm it should be taken after considering its pros and cons. Many farmers have divided opinions when it comes to bamboo farming, so this article will look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of cultivating bamboo. 

Pros of bamboo farming

1) Highly versatile crop

There are over 1400 bamboo species that come with different characteristics such as colours, height, growing patterns, and sizes. It is also versatile in its forms of use. So, you can choose bamboo according to your end product needs and climatic conditions. 

2) Prevents soil erosion & raises the water table

Bamboo is known as one of the best plant-based soil conservation tools. With its sum of stem flow rate and canopy intercept of 25%, it can effectively reduce soil erosion. Be it a hazardous flood or heavy rains, bamboo will restrict soil from run-offs.

Bamboo also helps in raising the water table and improving fertility in even the most nutrient depleted soils. Bamboo can also restore degraded lands and protect forests, thus combating desertification. A single bamboo plant can bind up to 6 Cubic Meter of soil. Most bamboo species form an evergreen canopy, dropping leaves year round, thus improving soil health. Bamboo can add 6-8 inches of humus to the soil per year. Bamboo can also prevent deforestation by reducing pressure on existing forest resources. Deforestation, forest degradation and climate change are threatening the incredible diversity of life in forests. Bamboo can provide a perfect solution.

3) Low maintenance

Bamboo has the natural property of  being resistant to pests and insect attacks. Hence, while cultivating bamboo, there is little to nil need for any chemicals or pesticides. 

4) Easy to grow

As mentioned before, bamboo grows fast. Climatic conditions also don't affect its growth pattern. Most varieties of bamboo mature in 3-5 years, and the yield is generally profitable, irrespective of whether it grows in fertile or barren land, rainy, snowy winter or drought-prone climate.

5) Environment friendly

Bamboo produces nearly 30% more oxygen and absorbs 5% more carbon dioxide compared to other trees. One hectare of bamboo plantation can absorb up to 200 tonnes of  CO2 in a year. Bamboo does not require any precious resources such as water in abundance. In fact, it takes very little from nature and gives back manifold. And that’s why bamboo is considered the most sustainable resource. 

Cons of bamboo Farming

1) Finding the right bamboo crop is difficult

As mentioned above, there are wide varieties and species of bamboo. So choosing the one right bamboo species that can bring the best yield on your farming land is difficult. Many bamboo enthusiasts also argue about clumping species and growing them together, but if you are not an expert in bamboo farming, differentiating the species will become hard. So it would be best if you did a lot of homework and research or consulted with an expert before getting into bamboo farming. 

2) Highly invasive

Bamboo spreads and grows rapidly. You can never track and know how it spreads, but if left unchecked it will crowd out native plants and leave no other plants to grow. It will disrupt biodiversity. Hence, you have to keep checking the bamboo plant at the rhizomes, cutting down unwanted new roots and construct a root/surface barrier so that its growth and spread can be contained to a particular area.

3) Can spread crossing territories

As said, bamboo is a highly invasive plant. It spreads fast, and it can reach the neighbouring land, which lies next to your cultivation. So you need to be careful and regularly check and prevent your bamboo cultivation from crossing the boundaries of your land. Controlled farming techniques, creating surface barriers or root barriers and checking and cutting down the unwanted rhizomes are some of the ways in which the spread of bamboo can be kept in check.

4) Removing bamboo and switching to other crops is hard

As mentioned above, bamboo, once planted, need not be replanted again and again. After cultivation, it will regrow and renew itself. Though it is highly beneficial for bamboo cultivators, it presents a challenge to a farmer if he decides to switch or change the crop. It is a complex task to get rid of bamboo from your land which may take years and vigorous efforts. 

5) Removing bamboo might require herbicides

Sometimes, removing bamboo becomes very hard, and you might need the help of herbicides. Even after using herbicides, it might take several seasons to get bamboo shoots to go completely. Using herbicides to stop regrowing bamboo will add chemicals to the land, which has the possibility of affecting the growth of the next crop you cultivate. 

Make a wise decision!

When deciding to cultivate a crop, there are a lot of factors to consider. Moreover, if you are choosing bamboo for the first time, you must do a lot of research before selecting the right species. You can get information from fellow farmers or experts or get help from government cultivation resource centers. 

Bamboo is in high demand, and it is highly sustainable. Along with that, it provides cost-effective cultivation and requires low maintenance. Consider all the pros and cons we have listed, study your land and make the best decision. 

Woody Grass is a bamboo-centric platform that celebrates sustainability and green living with a wide range of products, including furniture, garden accessories, lamps and lighting, home decor products, organisers and toiletries. We postulate to build a future driven by alternative solutions and sustainable choices. 

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