BAMBOO

DR. S.M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

July 4 - 10, 2011

The bamboo trees are of grass family tribe, mainly of warm or tropical regions, where they are extremely important.

Many species are the largest of the grasses, sometimes reaching 100 ft. The stalks are round, jointed and hollow or solid with evergreen of deciduous leaves. Some types of bamboo die after flowering and some do not flower until they are about 30 years old.

Bamboo is perhaps the tree/plant, which renders maximum services to human being, as compared to others. In many places, bamboo is used as wood, for house construction work, scaffolding, furniture, utensils, fiber, paper, food, ladders, fencing, containers, tool handles, pipes, toys, musical instruments, handicrafts, fuel and innumerable small articles of every day use.

Bamboo sprouts are eaten as vegetable, and the grains of some species are also utilized for food. The bamboo has long been used as decorative purposes, both in gardens and in art. As a result of modern technological advances, new uses of bamboo and its products are also being explored such as use of bamboo in reinforce cement concrete, medicine, charcoal, bacteria culture and for many other purposes.  

The bamboo plant is the world's tallest grass. In the Philippines, the bamboo becomes an important cooking ingredient, either in the (tender) shoot stage or as a fully grown plant. When the tender shoot grows into the adult stage, the hollow "stems" toughen, but are easy to cut or slice with a sharp knife or saw. However, very mature bamboo "stems" thicken and become tough even more; these are used in the construction industry than in Philippines culinary arts.

Bamboo is a very useful plant. It is useful all over the world in one form or the other. In ancient times, huts, bed cots, and cudgels were made of bamboo. Many things are still being produced from bamboo wood. These include brooms, baskets, and tea cups. Bamboo is a plant, which flourishes, in a hot and damp climate. It grows well in jungles, situated adjacent to sea, rivers, and marshy lands.

Before 1971, all the requirements of bamboo were brought to Pakistan from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and there was no problem at all. Now, it has to be imported either from some other Asian countries, which is a costly affair.

Most bamboos are grown in a moderately acidic loamy soil. Bamboo is a forest plant and does best if organic matter is kept over the roots and rhizomes. Any kind of manure is good, if it is not too hot. Bamboo can be planted at any time of the year in areas with mild climates. The plants need extra protection from any cold and drying winds. In very light soils, the bamboo rhizomes are usually grown well. Any soil amendments must be added only in the top foot or so. We must not encourage deep rhizome growth, if we want to contain the bamboo. If the bamboo planting can be surrounded by a shallow trench 8 to 10 inches deep, this can be a cheaper and easier method to control its spread. 

In Sargodha, Faisalabad, Jhang and other districts of Punjab, bamboo is grown on commercial scale, bamboo plants are seen in gardens, but their cultivation as a crop has not been successful. Moreover, bamboo is harmful to fruit trees as it is basically a bush. In fact, bamboo should be grown in damp and sandy land.

We find mushroomed growth of sarkandas in Pakistan. We can cultivate bamboo in place of it under the supervision of forestry experts. It is high time for the forest experts to undertake a survey of different areas to identify places suitable for bamboo cultivation. Then the farmers may be induced to undertake cultivation and provided with necessary facilities.

Bamboo like other plants requires some pruning to maintain its attractiveness. Bamboo culms live only to about 15 years. Once each year we should remove older unattractive culms and cut off any dead or unattractive branches. We can prune bamboo without fear of damaging it. We may cut just above a node, so as not to leave a stub that will die back and look unsightly. If we cut back the top, we may want to also shorten some of the side branches so the plant will look more balanced, not leaving long branches at the top.  

Formation of bamboo policy regarding imports, establishment of bamboo raw material based industries (after assessing the local production) and possible subsidies in fertilizers and irrigation and water are further suggestions to encourage the cultivation of this crop in the country. 

Although, most people have a place in mind, as to where they want to plant their bamboo, one should keep in mind that most large bamboo can grow quicker and do their best in full sun. They must be given ample water, fertilizer, and protection from competitive weeds. They will benefit from a windscreen and light shade when first planted as well. This is especially true of smaller plants. Fargesia, Thamnocalamus and Sasas do well with light to moderate shade. In fact, the Fargesias and most Thamnocalamus are happier with some shade during the hottest part of the day. Fargesia and Thamnocalamus are the hardiest of the clump type bamboo. Most other hardy bamboo can spread by their underground rhizomes and this must be taken into account, when planting them. Whenever, there is any deficiency symptom on the growth of bamboo tree, then we must manage to spray any suitable insecticide in order to control the deficiency symptom.