Bamboo (Bambusoideae) comprises about 116 genera of the grass family Poaceae and enfolds into approx. 1500 different bamboo species. Bamboo can be found on all continents, set aside Europe and the Antarctic.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and is valued for its versatility for centuries.
Although bendable and flexible, it is a surprisingly resilient material. Concerning tensile strength and hardness bamboo can even compete with steel. Nonetheless it is extremely light and can be machined formidably.
Neglected by modern research and economics for many decades, bamboo has finally received increased attention in the recent years, taking into account numerous mechanical, biochemical, environmental and economic benefits.
Fast growth and constant availability
The outstanding economic and environmental value of this renewable resource is rooted in the unique growth characteristics that distinguish bamboo from other crops. Bamboo culms do not only grow fast, they also regrow regularly after harvest. Depending on the species, replanting is necessary after many decades only.
In addition, bamboo does not require intensive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Soils with bamboo vegetation enjoy excellent health, even after numerous years of cultivation. It is reasoned in bamboo´s efficient nutrient management as well as in effective prevention of erosion by roots and rhizomes. Small animals, insects and microbes appreciating the soil environment of bamboo provide further positive symbiotic effects.
BAMBOO – A true multi-talent
Applications of bamboo include, but are not limited to:
- Energy plant for charcoal, pellets and feedstock for biomass power plants
- Construction material for building construction, interior design and scaffolding
- Manufacturing of parquet, furniture, bicycles, boats, etc.
- Manufacturing of countless consumables, e.g. toothbrushes, straws
- Textile fibers and paper products
- Arts and instrument building
- Cosmetics and biochemical products
- Manufacturing in the technology sector, e.g. activated carbon, osmotic filters, pipelines
- Reforestation, erosion prevention, riverbank fortification, natural barriers
Bamboo and environment
Considering economic and ecological aspects, bamboo certainly stands out among other crops, not only due to its fast growth and continuous reproduction. Combined with ecologically responsible farm management (cultivation without the “chemical mace”) that equally preserves humans, plants, wildlife, soil and groundwater, bamboo offers unique opportunities in merging economic efficiency and environmental awareness.
Furthermore, bamboo offers a range of amazing ecological benefits:
- Habitat for countless small animals, insects and microorganisms
- Up to 35% increased oxygen production compared to hardwood
- Highly efficient in erosion-prevention and riverbank fortification
- Resilient to a variety of environmental conditions
- Ideal for rapid reforestation and rehabilitation, even on polluted soils (e.g. mining grounds, fallow land, disaster areas)
Bamboo´s unique growth characteristics provide excellent opportunities for mining corporations to effectively re-cultivate former mining grounds. Not only can these lands be rehabilitated – they can be converted into sustainable, profit-generating assets.
Species profile: Bambusa balcooa
Bambusa balcooa is a tropical bamboo, native to northern India and Bangladesh, but successfully introduced to many other countries since decades. It grows sympodially, i.e. new culms only sprout within a narrow radius around the plant center.
A matured bamboo of this species can easily consist of more than 20 culms, each thornless, reaching a height of up to 15 meters and a diameter of 10-12 cm. Within 4-5 years a culm is sufficiently matured and thus ready for harvest. The characteristic cavity inside each bamboo culm is noticeably small (comparable to a 1€ coin). In comparison to most bamboo species, this allows the generation of significantly higher yields.
For an energy project such as charcoal production, Bambusa balcooa´s markedly high energy content of more than 4,700 kcal / kg (5.23 kWh) and an ash content of less than 2 percent (air-dried, after harvesting) are further highly advantageous characteristics.