With the change of guard, India has recently put bamboo related enterprise, including bamboo agro-forestry systems on the fast track. Rightly so, because Bamboo Plantations are some of the best CO2 sinks. With an exceptional growth rate, and very high timber strength- Bamboo Agroforestry systems offer a short cut to increasing our much needed Forest Cover.

It is needless to stress the importance of forest cover, and its implicit symbiotic relationship with existence of life on our planet. Only source of Oxygen- are green plants. Photosynthesis is a photo-sensitive mechanism where-in, plants consume CO2 to produce sugars, releasing oxygen as a bi-product, into the environment.

CO2 is one of the major green-house gases, responsible for heating the atmosphere and Global Warming. Forests, including bamboo-Agroforestry- thus offer one of the most reliable methods to mitigate, or even reverse this phenomenon.

Please refer to the following links on Global Warming and Role of Forests

I was recently in Talwara (Punjab), and Punjab Agriculture University (Ludhiana, Punjab), to study the gaps and bottle-necks, in the nascent Bamboo Industry in India. Nascent- because, Bamboo, having been recently de-regulated from the forest regime- is now easier to grow, transport and trade- thus offering the potential of developing enterprise to produce value added products of this wonderful resource/raw material.

We had the opportunity of visiting the Unati Cooperative in Talwara. Some wonderful work is being undertaken by Mr. Jyoti Swaroop and his Unati Team- a cooperative in true sense- with altruistic and holistic philosophy. Their work (value added products) on and is worthy of appreciation. Sadly though, their bamboo furniture project has been put on a temporary halt, due to lack of availability of proper raw material.

My second halt was at PAU, where I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Gurvinder Cheema Sahib. Under his direction, many farmer clusters have been created who are undertaking value addition initiatives and direct marketing. His focus on judiciously selected Alternative crops (of which Medicinal and Aromatic Plants is a subset) -- is worthy of appreciation. He has spent probably 3 decades on development of MAP - his knowledge is encyclopedic - and his experiences are an ocean---we farmers can learn a lot from such a resource person. Indeed kind of Dr. Cheema Sahib to have invited me for a cup of tea-- sweetened with his love, and a bit of his beautifully crafted stevia.

Having travelled in various parts of the country, in relation to bamboo- I notice many bottlenecks and road blocks, that need to be evened out to make this a successful enterprise. Some of the issues (elite planting material, rhizome nursery, 2 year old plants, domestication and hardening issues etc.) I had discussed in one of my previous blogs. Besides above, a farmer needs suitable inter-cropping options, to sustain the first three years, while the bamboo plantation is in the process of establishment.

I have been experimenting with Aromatic Grasses as an inter-crop with Bamboo. Depending on the location, soil, water availability and soil type, a suitable site-specific grass could be judiciously selected, amongst Lemongrass, Gingergrass, Citronella, Palmarosa and Vetiver etc.

For River Protection and Soil-rehabilitation of  effluent inflicted/polluted soils, Vetiver and Bamboo Combination is indeed very successful.

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