Bamboo Selection & Cultivation
Bamboo is an ancient woody grass with 60 to 90 genera and over 1,200 species. Asia accounts for 80% of the total area covered by bamboo, America 10% and Africa 10%. There are two main types of bamboo monopodial species that may be invasive have spreading rhizomes (similar to kikuyu). Sympodial bamboos grow in clumps and are generally non-invasive.
Sympodial bamboo species are normally substantially more productive than monopodial varieties. Typically bamboo is a tropical and subtropical plant however some varieties are drought and frost resistant making it possible to grow bamboo in a wide range of climates.
Bamboo is an easy crop to grow requiring little care or attention after the first year, however after flowering most species die. flowering can range from 20 to 120 years between species. Therefore to ensure commercial success it is critically important to source plants of the highest quality and bio-integrity. Propagation from seed is very intermittent and genetic variance is considerable, vegetative propagated from cuttings is difficult and slow. Hence Tissue culture provides the best reliable source for affordable selected quality plants.
The Importance of Mother Plant Selection
nTC (and Vegetative propagation in general) offers the possibility of selecting plants with desired traits
nThis results in reducedvariance of traits compared to sexually propagated plants (e.g. bamboo seedlings from natural forests)
nCloning of selected elite plants results in a genetic gain which may be expressed in larger or more productive plants and overall increased yield in plantations.
Hortus Capensis has invested a large amount of time and resources into identifying both varieties that are best suited to cultivate and under what conditions in Africa but also identifying which varieties can best exploit the commercial opportunities available. Having said that Bamboo need not be grown exclusively as a cash or timber crop, but can also be considered as providing supplementary duel purpose and utility functions like security or stock-proof hedges, windbreaks, water filtration and soil stabilization. While performing these functions it can provide farmers with:-
·Poles and utility timber,for crop supports, building material
·Fertilizer and soil augmentation
·Animal feed and food source
If we are look at what bamboo has achieved in Asia, develop our skills and adapt it to our needs and we will find bamboo offers a multitude of suitable sustainable solutions to many of our challenges.