As a farmer turned entrepreneur craftsman, my journey of diversification, from conventional agriculture to bamboo agro-forestry has been an interesting saga.
Wood is an important raw material for us. Unfortunately, this is a non-renewable resource, which has been over exploited over the last so many years. We, as mankind, have wiped out our forest cover at an alarming rate (and still doing so). Our indifference and greed has thus resulted in precipitating irreversible ecological changes. For instance, global warming is a direct result of pollution and deforestation, which, if not controlled, could wipe out 20% of Bangladesh, due to the rising sea level. One can cite numerous examples.
Policy makers, have now, grudgingly accorded high priority to ecological rehabilitation. Afforestation has thus become a global focus. CITES, is a result of one such global endeavor ! to save our forests.
Recently, CITES has listed Shisham and indian Red Wood in its watch list- Wooden Handicraft Industry has had a direct hit.
For some reason, I had a premonition, couple of years ago, and I had commenced collecting information on Bamboo, including elite planting materials etc. I have been in touch with many universities and my travels took me to all quarters of the country, wherever bamboo was said to be growing.
We short-listed Bambusa Balcooa, Bambusa Nutaans, Dendrocalamus Hamiltonii, Dendrocalamus Strictus and Dendrocalamus Membranaceous.
We made trial plots- but unfortunately, the rooting in Membranaceous and Balcooa was poor– we lost all plants.
We managed saving a few plants of Hamiltonii, Nutaans and Strictus.
The bot! tle-neck with bamboo, to be exploited as a wood, is its inter-nodal cavity and fiber orientation. Notwithstanding, its an excellent resource since it grows fast, and, by way of systematic agro-forestry, also renewable.
I have seen some variants of Dendrocalamus Strictus and Membranaceous almost fully solid, a quality, that perhaps, can make them a good substitute to wood.
Nutaans and Balcooa are thick walled– excellent for construction works etc. Both have straight growing habits, thus have a ready market.
In a recent experiment, I cut full length culms 2 year old of Nutaans and Hamiltonii- further divided them into 2 foot segments, to compare the wall thickness at similar heights. I noticed that Hamiltonii, though thicker at the base, with almost same wall thickness as Nutaans, lost out at around 18 feet, where its walls started to become thinner than Nutaans. Further, Nutaans is open ! culming- and easier to harvest- especially, if you are harvesting in a horse-shoe pattern (selective harvest)
In light of above, I feel Nutaans is a better choice for farmers, than Hamiltonii.
I am still in the process of establishing Balcooa and Membranaceous- rooting has been a problem with Membranaceous—- Any suggestions or advice, as to how to get it to root ???