Bamboo farming….. Future’s super material

January 03, 2013

Bamboo can be clearly called 21st century’s wood have more than 1500uses. It has excellent ability to absorb carbon dioxide so can perform very positive role in checking global warming. Bamboos possibly have potential as bioenergy or fiber crop for niche markets. Worldwide commercial bamboo consumption is reported up to 20 million tones per annum. Remarkably bamboo is more productive than many other candidate bioenergy crops and shares a number of desirable fuel characteristics with certain other bioenergy feed stocks. Over 600 million people around the world generate income from bamboo. Hundreds of millions of people in the world live in bamboo houses. In Asia only 2.5 billion people use bamboo for timber fiber and food purpose. There is huge commercial potential for bamboo farming in the warmer areas of Pakistan. They are exported worldwide and constitute a multimillion dollar trade commodity. Markets can be identified and established for domestically grown bamboo products (e.g. fresh, canned bamboo shoots, bamboo poles, bamboo flooring etc). Waste products from bamboo processing also suitable for energy recovery and for biomass feedstock handling equipment. Bamboo has good fiber quality for paper-making, and it shares a number of desirable fuel characteristics with certain other bioenergy feedstock, such as low ash content and appropriate alkali index.

 Over 600 million people around the world generate income from bambo
Over 600 million people around the world generate income from bambo

It can be use for ecological purposes such as soil stabilization and erosion prevention on hill slopes. Its heating value is higher than many agricultural residues like grasses and straws. Bamboo provides considerable environmental benefits. Bamboo silviculture is an option for conserving and protecting tropical forests while creating enduring supplies for the wood and cellulose industries Bamboo is a multipurpose plant with a countless applications ranging from construction materials, furniture, fences, handicrafts, pulp, paper, edible shoots, and animal fodder. In developing countries, it is a basic raw material with numerous traditional uses. It is highly suitable for handicrafts; it can be woven into numerous products including mats, baskets, trays, hats, lampshades, caps, lanterns, etc. Bamboo shoots are sold fresh or canned in brine for food purpose. Bamboos are quickest growing plants in the world, belonging to grass family Poaceae. These are grown in warm or tropical regions where they are extremely important. . Due to its versatile nature and multiple uses, it is also called ‘poor man’s timber. It can withstand drought as well as flood. The common bamboo is Bambusa arundincenia in Asian region. Many species, at times reach the height of 100ft. Unlike most timber, bamboo is a self-regenerating natural resource; new shoots that appear annually ensure future raw material after mature culms are harvested. A limited range of bamboo species are characterized with respect to fuel quality, and number of research recommendations are concluded. Its heating value is much higher than many agricultural residues like grasses and straws. Major economic species include the Dendrocalamus strictus, and Phyllostachys pubescens. Bamboo has been neglected in the past by tropical foresters, who tend to concentrate on timber trees at the expense of traditional multi-purpose. Use of bamboo as fuel for power generation in preference to sugar cane is also exemplary since its lower moisture content obviates the need for drying. Successful results have been gained using de-lignified bamboo pulp as a substrate for ethanol fermentation also.

Obstacles in bamboo cultivation include the near-impossibility of selective breeding, given the poor state of knowledge on bamboo reproduction. Bamboo is a renewable resource, but the capacity to regenerate is hindered by indiscriminate and destructive harvesting methods. The uncontrolled extraction of natural bamboo stands has resulted in reduced productivity and yields as well as deterioration in quality. Plantations of highland bamboo are needed to meet the increasing demand for raw material by industries. In general with certain other potential energy crops, fuel applications of bamboo biomass are actually more profitable, which can might be used as an expressive way of supplementing the income of bamboo bioenergy growers. On the other hand, bioenergy might provide a market for utilization of waste materials from thinning/harvesting of bamboo stands grown for other purposes. Bamboo processing does not require high capital investments but is labor intensive so can contribute significantly to employment. Skilled labor as well as attractive designs is very important in making bamboo products for commercial purposes. The utilization of bamboo fences is widespread. There has been a growing awareness in recent years that bamboo is a vital component of development and an effective means to improve the livelihoods of rural poor people. Women and children, many of whom live below subsistence levels in developing countries, harvest a great part of the bamboo that is used. Bamboo is a natural vehicle for development because rural people generally have adequate access to it. Bamboo agro forestry requires a modest capital investment and can generate steady income to farmers. Further research is also required on propagation techniques, establishment, stand management, and mechanized harvesting to value it.

By Naseem Sharif
Research Officer, Horticultural Research Institute
Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI)

Courtesy: Zarai Media Team

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