The word bamboo comes from the Kannada term bambu.  Bamboo is a flowering, perennial, evergreen plant in the grass family Poaceae, sub-family Bambusoideae, Their strength, straightness and lightness combined with extraordinary hardness, range in sizes, abundance, easy propagation and the short period in which they attain maturity make them suitable for a variety of purposes. Bamboo is a versatile, strong, renewable and environment-friendly material.

It is the fastest growing woody plant on earth. Most bamboo species produce mature fibre in 3 years, sooner than any tree species. Bamboo can be grown quickly and easily, and sustainably harvested in 3 to 5 years cycles. It grows on marginal and degraded land, elevated ground, along field bunds and river banks. It adapts to most climatic conditions and soil types, acting as a soil stabilizer, an effective carbon sink and helping to counter the green house effect. The diversity of this fascinating plant has to be conserved, not just for financial reasons and employment generation, but also more importantly in the revitalization of traditional science and technologies.

Bamboo distribution: - India has one of the richest bamboo resources in the world, second only to China. The annual bamboo production in the country is estimated 3.23 million tons. According to Forest Survey of India (FSI), in India bamboo grows in 8.96 million hectares of forest area, which constitutes about 12.8% of total forest area of the country. Of this, nearly 28% occur in the North Eastern States, followed by 20.3% in Madhya Pradesh, 9.90% in Maharashtra, 8.7% in Orissa, 7.4 % in Andhra Pradesh, 5.5% in Karnataka and the balance is spread in other States.

Diversified uses of bamboos: -Bamboos are employed for a variety of uses, these are the followings:-

Food purpose:- (a) A kind of food in Thailand is glutinous rice with sugar and coconut cream is specially prepared bamboo sections of different diameters and lengths (b) The shoots (new culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo are used in numerous Asian dishes and thin soups and are available in various sliced forms (c) The bamboo shoot in its fermented state forms an important ingredient in cuisines across the Himalayans (d) In Nepal, turmeric and oil mixed fermented bamboo shoots are cooked with potato to make a dish (e) In Indonesia, coconut milk and spices are mixed with thin slices of bamboo shoot to make a dish (f) Coconut milk mixed sliced bamboo shoots are cooked with vegetables to make a dish and others.

Ornament purpose: - Various ornaments are prepared from bamboo.

Structural support:- (a) Used as a construction material (b) Bamboo is used to hold up simple suspension bridges (c) In house making as posts, walls, roofing, flooring, fencing etc. (d) Used as decorative elements in buildings (e) Bamboo is used for drying clothes indoor (f) Make floating house (g) Used for making furniture (g) Bamboo is used for building roads.

Material making purpose: - (a) Commonly used to make ladders (b) Bamboo or wooden strips were the standard writing material during the Han Dynastry (c) Paper mills use bamboo for paper production (d) Bamboo has often been used to construct weapons (e) Bamboo is used as substitute of metal (f) Several manufacturers offer bamboo bicycles, surfboards, snowboards and stakeboards (g) Used to make fishing rods. (h) Bamboo has been traditionally used in Malaysia as a firecracker called bamboo cannon (i) Bamboo can be used in water desalination (j) Basket making (k) Used for making incense sticks and match splints (l) Handicrafts of various types (m) in packing various things (n) Bamboo waste materials can be used for making charcoal and briquetted coal

Musical instruments: - Flutes, drums, digeridoos, even saxophones making, bamboo is used.

Kitchen utensils: - (a) The empty hollow in the stalks of larger bamboo is often used to cook food (b) Used to make eating utensils i.e. chopsticks, strays and tea scoops (c) Cups and plates, spoons and ladles can all be made from bamboo.

Medicinal purpose: - (a) Bamboo is used for treating infections and healing (b) Fermented bamboo paste is used for the treatment of impotence, infertility and menstrual pains (c) A primary use has been to treat coughs and mucous in children (d) Leave and roots have been used for fevers, especially in babies, and for convulsions (e) Tender bamboo shoots are used for treating respiratory disorders and for other uses

Other uses: - (a) National plant of St. Lucia (b) Traditional Vietnamese villages are surrounded by thick bamboo hedges (c) Used as a fuel wood (d) Used for the cottage industry.

CULTIVATION METHOD

Land Preparation: Before planting bamboo seedlings, test the condition of soil, particularly for acidity. Bamboos grow best in slightly acidic soil. It may be that you would need to put in lime to adjust its pH level to a degree most suitable for bamboo growing.

Plantation: You can have bamboos for planting by growing them yourselves from a seed, using node cuttings or potted bamboo. To make sure the bamboo variety you’ve chosen is suited to your place’s climate and soil, grow it on a small scale first.

Maintenance: Bamboos are drought tolerant and resistant to insects and diseases. But it may be that the variety you are growing needs special care. Learn what specific requirements your plant needs

Spacing: -For most species a spacing of from 6m to 8m between clump centres is usual. A plot with poorer soils should be planted at 8 metre centres and richer soils at 6 metre intervals. The proper number of plants is about 400 per hectare.

Propagation: Establishing a plantation using large plants or even big divisions is very expensive. Smaller plantlets are needed. Most plantations are established using divisions of mature clumps.

Current methods of vegetative propagation: There are several methods of obtaining vegetative propagules

(a) Layering whole culms: -Bend outer culms of a clump downwards after undercutting at the base and bury the culm in the soil after cutting off all but the main branches. After a few weeks, if soil temperatures are sufficiently high and moisture levels maintained, roots and shoots develop at the buried nodes. Saw off the culm sections bearing new plants and transplant these directly into the desired plantation area

(b) Whole culm cuttings: -Whole 18 month old culms may be severed from adult clumps and planted in a shallow trench. Leave the top of the culm and a few branches intact and allow them to protrude above the ground. After some weeks, new roots and shoots develop at the nodes. Cut these from the parent culm and transplant them directly into the plantation site

(c) Double-node cuttings: - Make cuttings of culms with at least two internodes left intact. Trim branches from lower node. Plant prepared cuttings vertically in warm soil with the top of the culm and the branches left protruding. If using potting bags or pots, cover each with a clear or lightly frosted plastic bag tied in place after watering and leave in part shade until new roots protrude from drain holes. New roots and shoots are produced at the lower node. Single node cuttings planted on their side with the branch complement upwards will work with some species

(d) Branch cuttings: - Propagation using branch cuttings has proved successful in some cases. Cut the whole complement of side branches from a culm using a sharp hacksaw and plant in warm soil. New roots appear at the base of side branches within a few months. Obtaining new plants using these methods can take up to one year. A few more years of growth are necessary before young plants are strong enough to produce new shoots suitable for cutting as vegetables (e) Tissue culture: - Micro propagation techniques using emerging branchlets from mature culms might prove the most successful and cheapest method to establish a plantation.

Fertilizer: - Fertilizer is important during transplanting to increase the vigour of the rhizomes. It can be placed in the hole near the rhizomes. A shovel-full of well rotted stable manure, a handful of chemical fertilizer will give new plants a good start.

Mulching: - All transplanted bamboos, should be mulched with 15 to 20 cm depth of hay or straw to a diameter of about 2 metres.

Rhizome cuttings:-Sections of vigorous rhizome about 30 cm long, taken from just behind the growing area can be either planted in nursery beds or directly into the plantation area parallel to the contour and watered in. These will produce new shoots from the viable buds and new rhizome in the next season.

Yield and Harvesting: It is generally 3-4 tons/ha as understory in forest and 5-12 tons/ ha from plantations.  It will take about six years before you can have your first harvest. After the first commercial harvest, however, cuttings will be done annually and could continue for 50 years with only maintenance required on your part.

Financial aspects:-The unit cost for one acre of plantation is Rs. 9400 spread over a period of five years. Harvesting commences from sixth year onwards. The yield and income of bamboo plantations details are the following: - at sixth year, yield 9.6 metric ton and income Rs. 5280; 7th year, yield 11.2 metric ton and income Rs. 6160; 8th year, yield 12.8 metric ton and income Rs. 7040; 9th year onwards, yield 14.4 metric ton and income Rs. 7920.

Preparing shoots for use as a Vegetable: -Preparing shoots for the table Shoots of certain types of bamboo contain amounts of cyanogens and may be toxic, but cooking destroys these substances and renders the shoots edible and even tasty. Boil freshly cut shoots in lightly salted water before peeling with a sharp knife. Boiling (or steaming) softens the culm leaves covering the shoots and makes them easier to peel. Slice the shoot lengthwise into thin slices four or five millimetres thick.

Conclusion: Bamboo is a necessary element of Chinese culture, or even in the whole Asian civilization. People plant bamboos, eat bamboo shoots, paint bamboos, write poems for bamboos, and speak highly of gentlemen who are like bamboos. Bamboo is not only a plant, but also a part of people’s lives. Bamboo has been and is still playing its role in the socio-economy of the people especially in rural areas and constitutes in integral part of their culture.Bamboo is a cash crop having low gestation period with fast growth and giving economic recurring returns, generation after generation. It also lends itself for cultivation around houses and compounds, on farmlands and other available spaces in farm holdings. It is easy to grow and serves as a choice even for absentee landlords who take to farming. Its diversified uses and easy marketability ensures its potential as an excellent agro-forestry crop.Farmers are generally traditional in nature and sudden change of cultivation of any crop brings shock to them. A farmer generally cultivates a crop what is grown by fellow farmers. Therefore, the farmers have less chance to earn more money due to overproduction of any crop (i.e. potato, wheat etc.) and less market demand leads lower market prices. Therefore, the time has come to change the outlook of farmers towards crop cultivation moving towards crop diversification. Crop diversification leads sustainable market demand of agricultural products as well as there is chance to sustainable income. In this arena, adoption of bamboo cultivation obviously opens a new door to farmers to make profit along with diversified uses of bamboo shows the way of employment generation. The most considerable thing in bamboo cultivation is opportunity for sustainable income (no crop failure). Therefore, the rural poor people surely be benefitted by this technology. Hence, the public and private extension agencies should consider this technology as one of potential technologies to remove rural poverty through generating income.


Author

Hiralal Jana

Department of Agricultural Extension, College of Agriculture,

Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Agricultural Farm-713101;

Burdwan, West Bengal, India; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.