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Guide to Farming Bamboo Sustainably

Updated: Mar 28

Students learn how to cultivate bamboo sustainably with Bamboo Bioproducts

What Makes Bamboo a Unique Plant?

Bamboos are a type of woody plant that grow in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. They have been used for centuries for a variety of applications - and are still used in today’s modern world for a variety of products due to their unique properties. When bamboos are cultivated and processed sustainably, they can be a green alternative to materials including cotton, steel and tree-based pulp . Bamboos can be cultivated sustainably for a few reasons:

  • Bamboos grow into a wood-like grass;

  • They are the fastest-growing plant on the planet and can be harvested without the need to replant;

  • Bamboos are bioremediators. This means they can be used in the restoration of degraded land because they are able to process and absorb chemicals in the soil and return nutrients back to the soil;

  • Bamboos act as substantial carbon sinks. They absorb and process more carbon than northern softwoods and eucalyptus combined. Land take of bamboos are much less than these two combined as well. This is because bamboos produce more ‘wood’ per acre.

Bamboo Land Take as compared to eucalyptus and northern softwoods

Read on as bamboo bioproducts explains.

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How Does Bamboo Grow?

Bamboos grow in tropical and subtropical environments. There are 1600 or more species of bamboos with two categorisations based on growth patterns; running and clumping bamboo. Running bamboo rhizomes tend to extend outward and away from the main plant. Running bamboos have long rhizomes that quickly spread in an unpredictable direction. This spreading speed is the main reason why most people think all bamboo types are invasive - which is a myth. Clumping bamboos have short rhizomes with a u-shape that are closer to the main plant. This means they do not spread rapidly like runners. Clumping bamboos generally grow faster than runners, but with a predictable growth pattern.

Both types of bamboo have a rhizome structure, and as such, bamboo is considered a colony plant. This means it uses energy from the existing plant to produce more plants the next year, thus increasing the size of the colony. The new plants will then grow in the same manner. New shoots emerge and grow into a culm with limbs and leaves within approximately a 60-day period.

It takes bamboo only 3-5 years to reach maturity, while it takes softwoods and hardwoods at least 15 years to reach this point. This means that the cultivation and harvest time for bamboo is much shorter than for other types of wood. Since bamboo is a woody grass, when it is harvested it will not need to be replanted; it will simply re-start the process of pushing new shoots through the ground. This is because the rhizome structure comprises up to 80% of the bamboo colony’s total biomass, and it’s all underground!

Bambusa vulgaris var. vulgaris is a clumping type bamboo variety that will be farmed by bamboo bioproducts (BBP), is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, as are most other species of bamboo. In terms of farming however, this presents a significant advantage for sustainable practices because this type of bamboo is non-invasive and doesn’t require the use of any pesticides.

How to Farm Bamboo Sustainably?

Bamboo’s maturation rate and regeneration activity allow for it to be sustainably farmed when the right processes are put in place. This means bamboo can be harvested each year once mature, with minimal impact on the environment. This is part of the reason why bamboo bioproducts will be cultivating and processing bamboo in Jamaica and beyond, creating the first-ever bleached bamboo sustainable kraft (BBSK) pulp for tissue and hygiene products. But sustainable farming doesn’t begin and end with cultivation of the plant. bamboo bioproducts, for example, will take an all-encompassing approach to farming bamboo. This includes prioritising socioeconomic factors just as much as environmental factors. A component of socioeconomic sustainability is providing opportunities for education, training and sustainable employment opportunities for local communities.

Many of the plots to be utilised by BBP were previously used for sugarcane plantations, now sitting idle. Bamboo provides the opportunity for Jamaica to revive its renowned agricultural sector. The development and implementation of a full-scale bamboo operation will allow Jamaica to be home to the first bamboo market pulp mill that will be built in Westmoreland, Jamaica; the first of its kind in the Western hemisphere.

Want to learn more? Stay up to date with bamboo industry news here.


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