BAMBOO plants are of grass family tribe. These are grown in warm or tropical regions where they are extremely important. The common bamboo is Bambusa arundincenia. These are most abundant in the East Asian region. Many species, at times reach the height of 100ft. The stalks are round, jointed and hollow or solid of deciduous leaves. Some types of bamboo die after flowering and some do not flower until they are about 30 years old.

This plant perhaps renders maximum service to man as compared to others. In many places, bamboo is used as wood, for house construction, scaffolding, furniture, utensils, fibre, paper, food, ladders, fencing, containers, tool handles, pipes, toys, musical instruments, handicrafts, fuel and innumerable small articles of everyday use.

Its sprouts are eaten as vegetable, and the grains of some species are also utilized as food. The bamboo has long been used for 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 the use to reinforce cement concrete, in medicines, charcoal, and bacteria culture.

The 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. The tender shoots are sliced into strips and stir fried along with the requisite spices; an “adobo” version also is available.

When the tender shoot grows into the adult stage, the hollow “stems” toughen, but are easy to cut or sliced with a sharp knife or saw. However, very mature bamboo “stems” thicken and become tough even more; these are used in the construction industry and in Philippines culinary arts.

Bamboo is useful all over the world in one form or the other. In ancient times, huts, cots and cudgels were made of it. Many things still are being produced from its wood. These include brooms, baskets and tea cups. The plant flourishes in both hot and damp climates.

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 the Eastern Wing (now Bangladesh. Now, it is imported either from some other Asian countries.

Most bamboos are grown in a moderately acidic loamy soil. It 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. It can be planted at any time of the year in areas with mild climates. The plants need extra protection from cold and dry 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 planting is surrounded by a shallow trench eight to 10 inches deep, this can be a cheaper and easier method to control it’s spread.

Bamboo is also being grown in Sargodha, Faisalabad, Jhang and other districts of Punjab on commercial scale. 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. The country abounds in streams, rivers, canals and ponds around which we find mushrooms growth of sarkandas. We can cultivate bamboo in place of it under the supervision of forestry experts.

The forest experts should undertake a survey of different areas to identify the 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. 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.

The research areas such as growth behaviour, fertilizer response to yield and quality, the development of appropriate technologies for harvesting, seasoning and various other aspects of planting geometry, methods of vegetative propagation, rational period, harvesting procedure and studies on pest and diseases of bamboo are suggested to follow.

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

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. This is especially true of smaller plants such as Fargesia, Thamnocalamus and Sasas.

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, it must be sprayed with a suitable insecticide in order to control the symptom.

March 27, 2006 on Dawn

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