Archive for category Agroforestry

Bamboo Propagation

India has about 1200 odd bamboo species- out of which the commercially important ones have been prioritized by the Government, under the National Bamboo Mission.

As a farmer and a bamboo-entrepreneur based in Uttarakhand, totally solid species, also called the Iron bamboo are of special interest.

Currently nursery works are underway - to cater to our planting targets of next year.

Bamboo Multiplication is primarily done by rhizomes, Old bamboo plant is dug out, the culms separated with a bit of root-stock in each, which are then planted out.

This year- we have made our own nurseries using the rhizome method of the following species

  • Thick walled Bambusa Balcooa- with about a hole of about 1 cm dia
  • Thick Walled Nutaans- with about 1 cm hole
  • Oliverii
  • Guadua ( experimental)

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Iron Bamboo Nurseries- Guroo Farms

Due to a proposed restriction on export of Shisham, we have, over the last 2 years, established an experimental Bambusetum, of about 8 bamboo species, including 2 of the rare Iron Bamboo varieties, namely, Dendrocalamus Stocksii and Thyrostachys Oliverii at Guroo Farms in the Terai Belt of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, India. Besides the afore-mentioned Iron Bamboos, we also have planted Nutaans and Balcooa, both being loosely clumped, thick walled and with straight growing habits.

Further, I would like to thank our Prime Minister, Mr. Modi to have taken the initiative of having Bamboo de-listed as a forest-produce, thereby facilitating ease of trade, and thus giving an impetus to bamboo agro forestry systems. We, as a Sovereign Nation have been sleeping over the error of classification which has resulted in bamboo not having been exploited to its optimum potential. Thus, China is way ahead of us, despite the fact that we, as a country, have a considerable bamboo stand in our forests, and also have agro-climatic zones that support bamboo agro-forestry systems. Botanically, bamboo is a grass and not a tree- an anomaly that should have been sorted out, way back.

I am trying to locate a reliable source of Guadua Bamboo, which is said to be an excellent species for Terai. It is one of the toughest TIMBER BAMBOO, ideal for construction.

My aim is to get about 10 to 15 acres under bamboo cultivation over the next 2 to 3 years.

Another issue that plagues my mind is the choice of the under-story crop for the first 2 years, till the bamboo stand establishes fully.

Does Turmeric fit the bill??



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Curing Bamboo

Our attempts to switch over to agroforestry of bamboo to substitute wood for our handicrafts took me to , and Bangalore, where I had the pleasure of meeting some rare breed of "bamboo connoisseurs". The 5 day seminar offered insights into novel methods of bamboo preservation and product development.

To a layman, bamboo epitomizes "a poor mans timber"- an ambivalent "pole"- being utilized in almost all rural activities- may it be construction, fencing, fishing or agriculture.

Why preserve bamboos?
Natural Untreated Bamboos are classified as GRADE 3 timber material. However, when properly treated it turns out be a very fine timber, in ways, stronger than steel and ALL HARDWOODS. In its treated state- Bamboo is classified as GRADE 1 Timber- along with Sagwan and Sal. Thus, treating bamboo becomes a necessity. 

These techniques include non-chemical and chemical methods, some of which I have already discussed in one of my earlier blogs.

Sap Displacement, smoking, white-washing, storage in water.
Chemical treatment methods (CCA), Boric acid / Borax

Treatment in heated oil / oleo-heat-
I am intrigued by the simplicity and functionality of this process. Where-as, other processes may involve a time span of at least a few months, from the time of harvest to a fully dried and treated bamboo, the oil process renders a ready/treated and duly de-hydrated and de-starched bamboo, in a matter of hours!!! I am trying out various combinations- to study the costs involved, as well as to minimize chemical deterioration and the associated fire hazards

Would appreciate comments/observations on this method . 

Outer/Exterior Protection

Lacquer vs Varnish- Both lacquer and varnish are used to provide a finish to wooden furniture, but they are different in ingredients and how they are made.
Varnish is made from resins that are mixed with thinners or other solvents to remain liquid. On the other hand, lacquer is made by dissolving cotton and nitrocellulose in solvents.
• Varnish is always transparent, whereas lacquer can be made to give tinted finishes.
• No flattening agent is added in lacquer, whereas varnish can produce semi glossy and even satin finishes because of the presence of flattening agents.
• Lacquer being quick drying, it is applied mostly by spraying whereas varnish is applied using a brush.

Varnish is a resin(natural or synthetic) dissolved in oil and does not contain pigments. It produces hard film. Where as lacquers are quick drying coatings made of nitrocellulose dissolved in solvent with pigment added for color.

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Bamboo as a Crop

Off-late, BAMBOO (Gramineae (Poaceae), subfamily Bambusoideae) has stolen my interest, and I have been collecting commercially viable genotypes. I came across this interesting genotype of Bambusa Balcooa, with almost non-existent inter-nodal cavity ( in the lower 60% of the bamboo- which gradually increased to about 2 to 3 cm in the upper third) . I plan to propagate this particular bamboo for its possible use as a substitute to hardwood for our handicrafts. 

Bamboos are giant woody grasses, with about 1300 species in approx 180 genera. B
ambusoideae are distributed in tropics.

Bamboo plants, usually perennial, consist
of an underground root system and rhizome mat from which culms grow. These (culms) are usually hollow, primarily made of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Diameter of up to 20cm or more has been seen in some species, with a height of 10–40m, which is achieved in about 3–4 months.

Bamboo has long fibre- 1.5 to 3.2mm in length, comprise 60–70 per cent of the culm’s weight, thus a desirable raw material for paper production. Bamboo provides a high biomass yield, is strong and its calorific value is comparable to wood.

Bamboos can be-sympodial or monopodial. The flowering cycle can be anywhere from 15 to 120 years.

Ecological requirements
Most species need warm and humid climates. There are drought-resistant strains, such as Dendrocalamus strictus which can survive on a minimum of 750–1000mm annual precipitation.

Bamboos prefer light, well-drained sandy loams, with abundant organic matter. The optimal soil pH range is between 5 and 6.5.

Conventional propagation is done by: seeds or by vegetative methods (
the planting of offsets, culm cuttings or branch cuttings).

Crop management
Planting density tests of Dendrocalamus strictus in India suggest that the high density populations, something like sugarcane, could yield as much as 27t of biomass/ha- measured over 18- month period.

Fertilization- has been shown to lead to an increased number and weight of rhizomes. A nitrogen-rich, fast-release compound fertilizer should be used in the spring, a month before sprouting. Studies in China have concluded that for every 1000kg of bamboo vegetable matter produced, 2.7kg of nitrogen, 3.6kg of potassium and 0.36kg of phosphorus must be added to the soil.
Suggested fertilizer levels for bamboo resulting from tests in India

Fertilizer Amount (kg/ha)
Nitrogen (N)-  100 (kg/ha)
Potassium-  (as K2O) 50 (kg/ha)
Phosphorus - (as P2O5) 50 (kg/ha)

Production, Processing and utilization
Bamboo is harvested manually with knives.

It was previously believed that clear felling was harmful to bamboo stands, but tests in India have shown that clear felling of the stand led to vigorous growth.

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Bambusa Balcooa

One of the species that I have collected in my bambusetum/bambusarium is Bambusa Balcooa, aka Female Bamboo. It is a tropical clumping species of bamboo. It is found in N.E India, Tarai area of Uttar Pradesh etc. Some of the clones are very thick walled.

This bamboo species is often used in scaffolding, for paper pulp or wood chips. It is a popular building material for houses and bridges and on a lesser scale, used for baskets, mats, roofing. Young shoots are eaten and leaves are used as fodder.

The culms of Bambusa Balcooa are about 12-22 m in height, and about 6-15 cm in dia, thick walled ( the cavity is about 30% of the culm). Nodes are thickened with a whitish ring above, and have short small hair below. Internodes are about 20-40 cm long.

Shoots are blackish/green yellow in color. Culm sheaths are brown, sometimes with dark brown hair.

Branches: Several Branches occur from middle of the culm to the top. Branches from the lower nodes are leafless and hard, and sometimes thorn-like.

Leaves: Leaves are narrow and are on average 15-30 cm long and 25-50 mm broad.

Seeds: Gregarious flowering every 35-45 years.

Habitat: Bambusa balcooa grows in tropical monsoon climates.

Mechanical properties: The compressive strength ranges from 39.4 to 50.6 N/mm2 in green and 51.0 to 57.3 N/mm2 in air dry condition. Modulus of rupture varied between 85.0-62.4 N/mm2 in green and 92.6-69.6 N/mm2 in air dry condition. Modulus of elasticity 7.2-10.3 kN/mm2 in green, 9.3-12.7 kN/mm2 in air dry condition (Kabir et al. 1991).


Malay, D,Bhattacharya, S, Singh, P, Filgueiras, T S, Pal, A. 2008. Bamboo Taxonomy & Diversity in the Era of Molecular Markers. Advances in Botanical Research 47: 225 – 268.
Guadua Bamboo Costa Rica:\

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Iron Bamboo Processing and Preservation

As a person undertaking agro-forestry of bamboo, we process Iron Bamboo for Handicrafts, Martial Art or Medieval Replica Weapons for Self Defense, which involves specialized methods and techniques of processing and preservation, to increase its durability.

Preservation techniques-

The empirical wisdom or popular knowledge, of indigenous people, peasants, farmers and artisans, has been developed through centuries in all the continents and has resulted in well-known methods and techniques to effectively preserve bamboo. Traditional methods are generally cheaper to implement and can be done without any special equipment.

For proper Preservation of iron bamboo, it must be harvested/cut early mornings, before sunrise, in winters - on a waning moon.** (This is a controversial topic, scientists argue over the truth behind this “peasant knowledge”. Nevertheless, detailed studies show remarkable differences with untreated bamboo, when harvested at specific hours and moon phases. The starch content is lowest between waning gibbous and last quarter between the 6th and 8th day after full moon due to the higher gravitation of the moon. On the basis of photosynthesis, in the course of the morning, bamboo starts transporting starch from the roots into the leaves.

Soaking- After harvest, bamboo is stored in running water for 3-4 weeks to leach out starch.

Chemical Treatments ( any one -to be done immediately after harvesting or after soaking)-

  • CCA (copper-chrome-arsenic composition, in the proportion 3: 1:4) is good for bamboo, but has associated health hazards. Thus, it has to be used judiciously, if at all. Bamboo products are tanalised, impregnated under pressure or boiled with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to protect against rot. CCA is effective but toxic/carcinogenic.

  • ACA- Ammoniacal copper arsenate penetration in bamboo is effective against fungi, bacteria and insects. However, ACA is eco-toxic non-degradable.

  • CCB and CCBF  - commercially ASCU.

  • Boric acid, borax and boron are cheaper than CCA and less poisonous. This is used at a concentration of  2.5 per cent each, to be dissolved in hot water. The preservative, (disodium octaborate- which forms as a result of the reaction), is easily soluble in water. This process is only recommended for bamboo culms that would not be exposed to water or rain. Boron salts are effective against borers, termites and fungi (except soft rot fungi), and is widely recognized to be environmentally acceptable and safe for the mammals.

  • Other alternatives methods:Treatment of bamboo with limewater.

  • Drying of bamboo before use is necessary since dry bamboo is stronger and less susceptible to biological degradation than moist bamboo. In some experiments carried out it was found that Acetic acid (Vinegar), completely prevented moulds/fungus incidence during the drying process. (Tang et al., 2009).

  • Following the drying, the bamboo is TRADITIONALLY smoked by storing it above a fireplace, to blacken the culm. This, however, may not be necessary if chemical methods are used.

  • Fire Retardant Preservative- This treatment is intended to protect materials against fire as well as decay and insect attack. A mixture of boric acid / copper sulphate / zinc chloride / sodium dichromate in a ratio of 3:1:5:6 is recommended at 25% for indoor and outdoor use

  • For Termites- 1% Dieldrin may be added to the preservative. However, Dieldrin is dangerous, and use is illegal in several countries.

Further information
• Non poisonous Timber Protection Practical Action Technical Brief
• Designing and Building with Bamboo by Jules J. A. Janssen

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Bambusa Tulda

Bambusa Tulda ( Also called Jati, Makor, Makol, Mirtinga, Wati, Owati, Koraincho, Longmeli, Rawthang, Mritanga etc.) is one of the most important species of bamboo.

Bamboo is called the poor man’s timber and India is one of its largest habitats. It is a fast growing species. Ironically classified as a NON TIMBER FOREST PRODUCT, its wood quality is better than any of the hardwoods. It matures in a short period of 3 years, thus also called GREEN GOLD.

I surveyed the viability of including Bambusa Tulda as an agro-forestry crop for Tarai Area to cater to my requirement of a suitable raw material for handicraft industry. Unfortunately, I found it too hollow and its diameter too little to cater to my requirement, and thus I have shelved the idea.

Nevertheless, as a matter of record, I am enlisting certain pertinent findings from what I read and saw.

Bambusa Tulda naturally occurs in parts of N.E India and naturalized in Iraq, Puerto Rico, and parts of South America. It is a tall tropical bamboo, with a long period of vegetative growth. Culms are about 17 to 22 m high, dia about 3 to 6 cm ( 1 to 2 inches),  usually straight, bright to dark green, with streaks of yellow. Wall thickness is around 0.5 to 1.5 cm. It grows well in moist hilly tracts of N.E India and has its applications in basketry and woven handicrafts. It is a good raw material for paper industry.

As per Wikipedia

Young culms are green, which turn greyish green on maturity. Young shoots are greenish-yellow, with a powdery top. Culms are covered with white blooms. A band of white hairs occurs above the nodes. Branching occurs from the base to top. Aerial roots reach up to few nodes above.
Culm sheaths are triangular with a conical blade, and straw-colored. The sheath proper is asymmetrical and 15-32 cm in length and 25-34 cm wide. Blade length is 5-10 cm. Auricles are unequal where the large one is rounded and situated on the side of the blade. The upper surface of the sheath is covered with blackish-brown hairs. The lower surface of the sheath is not hairy. Sheaths fall off early

Other Sources-

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Iron Bamboo- Thyrsostachys Oliveri- Kanak Kainch

Thyrsostachys Oliveri, another of the few "Iron Bamboos", is native to the Thailand, South China and N.E India (Tripura area). It is one of the most important bamboo species, because of its near solid structure and fiber quality. Locally called the Kanak Kaich, its a fairly straight growing mid sized bamboo, with a small spread. Farmers in Katlamara in West Tripura cultivate this bamboo at close spacing of about 2.5 m x 2.5 m.

I found this IRON BAMBOO species interesting, due to its vigorous growth at a Nursery close to Dehradun. I have, thus planted a few in my little bambusarium, due to its possible applications in the handicraft sector.

Thyrsostachys oliveri is a short rhizomed, perennial, evergreen, clumping/sympodial tropical bamboo, with persistent culm-sheath, which is an identifying feature.

thyrsostachys oliveri consistent culm sheath

The almost straight/erect culms are about 15 - 25 m long; 50 - 70mm in dia and about 40 - 60cm internode.


As an iron bamboo, its valued as an excellent material for house-beams and miscellaneous applications in construction. The culms are used for reinforcing concrete blocks. Local craftsmen use this bamboo for handicrafts- mat-making, basketry, broom handles etc. Its fiber has a dark brown lustre, which makes it a material of choice for handicrafts. In Thailand, the young shoots are harvested for the production of steamed bamboo shoots.

Habitat : This species originates on the low hills forest, open areas at an altitudinal ranges of 500–700 m.

Distribution : Thailand, Myanmar, China - introduced and cultivated in tropical / subtropical Asia (Gamble, 1896; Wu, 2006).

Silvi-cultural management techniques Propagated through air-layering, culm cutting or offset planting.

Local Names :

Thailand;Phai ruak dam

Burma-Thanawa. Thyrsostachys Oliveri is a Native of Burma. (Nayagarh & Ganjam Districts)

Manipur- Keirakwa

Tripura- Kanak Kaich, Busai, Nusai, Nala Bauns


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Bamboo Trails- Dendrocalamus Stocksii

I learnt about this near solid, iron-bamboo (Dendrocalamus Stocksii) from an article published by Institute of Wood Science and Technology. The interesting feature was its loose-clumping growth habit, along with a near absence of inter-nodal cavity, thereby making it a suitable candidate for consideration of use to replace wood in certain applications in the handicraft industry. Also alluded to, as an iron-bamboo due to its iron like strength, this species is practically non-existent in N. India. Scientists at FRI and various agricultural institutes need to study the viability of introducing Dendrocalamus Stocksii in the TARAI, which is pretty humid and moist, much like the costal area, where this bamboo is naturally found.


Dendrocalamus stocksii (Munro), synonym Oxytenanthera stocksii / Pseudoxytenanthera stocksiiaabsence (Munro), synonym Oxytenanthera stocksii / Pseudoxytenanthera stocksii

As per the alluded article, Dendrocalamus stocksii is naturally distributed in Central Western Ghats. Locally called - Chivari’, Mes, Konda, Oor-shema, Marihal, Manga etc. D. stocksii has medium sized, stout solid and strong culms. Though the natural distribution of this species is in humid tropics, this species has a wide adaptability and comes up well in tropical humid, sub humid and semi-arid conditions.


Culms are said to be about 8 to 9m, basal dia 25-58mm and internode of 15-30cm, light green in colour, loosely spaced and without thorns. They are solid at the base upto about half the culm height.

Anatomical and Mechanical Properties of Dendrocalamus stocksii

Specific gravity- 0.691

Fibre Diameter (μm)- 16.6

Fibre Lumen Diameter (μm)- 5.7

Fibre length (mm)-3.4

Fibre Wall Thickness (μm)- 10.9

Modulus of Rupture (MOR) (kg/cm2)- 620

Maximum crushing stress (kg/cm2)- 386

Vascular bundles per cm2- 281

(Source: Rao et al., 2004)

Species Specific gravity MOR (kg/cm2) Max. crushing stress (kg/cm2)
Dendrocalamus stocksii 0.691 620 386
Bambusa nutans 0.603 529 456
Bambusa bambos 0.584 836 572
Dendrocalamus strictus 0.631 734 359
Tectona grandis 0.604 959 532
kN/cm²   spruce   bamboo   steel St37
elastic modulus   1100   2000   21000
compressive compressive   4.3   6.2-9.3   14
tension strength   8.9   14.8-38.4   16
bending strength   6.8   7.6-27.6   14
shearing strength   0.7   2.0   9.2


The compressive strength of bamboo is roughly situated between 40 and 80 N/mm2 which is twice to four times the value of most timber species. Bamboo with low moisture content has a higher compressive strength than one with higher moisture.

The shear strength of bamboo is often twice the value of popular timber species.

The bending strength of most bamboo species varies between 50 and 150 N/mm2 and is on average twice as strong as most conventional structural timbers

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Bamboo- For Handicrafts and Fiber

Bamboo, genetically, a grass, is proving to be a suitable green substitute to hardwood timber. Its green, because it is one of the fastest growing plants, and under a suitable regimen of agro-forestry, can substantially reduce the burden on our forests.

Needless to mention, that Indian Wooden Handicraft Industry is having to look at alternative resources for raw material, in light of Indian Rosewood (Shisham) having been classified under schedule 2 of the  CITES lists.

Bamboo seems to fit the bill perfectly. 

As a farmer, as well a stake-holder in handicraft business, we have hence commenced planting bamboo for our needs. In quest of elite planting material, I travelled to all corners of the country, as well as parts of Bhutan and Nepal. We collected some interesting genotypes- We also received some good planting material from Agro-Forestry Dept.of GBPUAT. As a result of above efforts, we have now established trial plots of 6 species of bamboo on our farm, which we shall study for suitability for handicraft applications, as well as its agronomy ( suitability as a cash crop).

Bamboo has a long and interesting history dating back more than 5,000 years. The woody stem has various applications- it is widely used in construction industry, handicrafts, paper, furniture and for fiber processing, besides some other applications. 

Bamboo textiles are textiles derived from bamboo fibers, with or without hemp/cotton/spandex blends. BAMBOO Fiber is obtained from the culms- it is lingo cellulosic, made from bamboo timber which has matured for at least 3-4 years (depending on species). The major chemical constituents of bamboo are cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, besides minor occurrence of waxes, resins, tannins, proteins and ashes. Bamboo fibers comprise of 60–70 % holo-cellulose, pentose's (20–25 %), hemicelluloses and lignin. The α-cellulose of bamboo is comparable with that of woods. Cellulose contents in this range make bamboo a suitable raw material for the pulp and paper industry. Cellulose is made up of linear chains of β-1-4-linked glucose anhydride units.

Mature Culms are crushed and submersed in a strong solution of sodium hydroxide to dissolve the cellulose. Carbon disulfide is added to regenerate fibers, which are then drawn off, washed and bleached and dried. The resultant fluff is spun into yarn.

The higher tensile strength and longer staple results in a tough yet soft yarn – This is what gives bamboo fabrics excellent durability. The hollowness of the bamboo fiber makes it highly absorbent. Thus, it takes longer to dry on a clothesline. The hollowness of the bamboo fiber also enables it to hold color (dyes and pigments)-thus it is much more colorfast.

Main methods of producing bamboo fibers-

The culm is crushed and soaked in a solution of 18 % NaOH at 20–25 °C for 1– 3 h to form alkali cellulose, which is then pressed to remove excess NaOH solution. The mass is further crushed, left to dry for 24 h and CS2 added. This causes the bamboo alkali cellulose to sulfurise and jell out. The remaining CS2 is removed by evaporation due to decompression, resulting in sodium xanthogenate.  A diluted solution of NaOH is added to the cellulose sodium xanthogenate, to dissolve it into a viscose solution consisting of about 5 % NaOH and 7–15 % bamboo fiber cellulose.  The viscose solution is forced through spinneret nozzles into a larger container of diluted sulfuric acid (H2SO4) solution which, hardens the viscose and reconverts it to cellulose bamboo fiber which are spun into yarns (to be woven or knitted).

Lyocell process uses N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMNO) to dissolve the bamboo cellulose into viscose solution. NMNO- a weak alkaline-  acts as surfactant, as well as to break down the cellulose structure. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is added as a stabilizer and the solution is forced through spinnerets into a hardening bath (usually a solution of H2O2 and a alcohol like methanol or ethanol), which causes the thin streams of viscose solution to harden into bamboo cellulose fibers. The regenerated bamboo fibers are spun into yarns.

BAMBOO CHARCOAL FIBER  The joints of bamboo are cut out and then split up into pieces of slivers of an inch in width. The shredded bamboo is pickled in a solution of clear lime-water, nitrate of soda and oxalic acid. The pickled bamboo is removed after 12–24 h in order to be boiled in a solution of soda ash. The material is crushed and then combed, carded, or heckled. It is then spun into cordage, yarn or other forms of manufacturing.
LITRAX (NATURAL) BAMBOO FIBER Mechanical extraction of natural bamboo fiber, a Bamboo culms. b Mechanical splitting of bamboo culms. c Rasping of woody parts. d Enzyme bath. e Gray and bleached natural bamboo fibers. f Woven bamboo fabric. In order to turn bamboo into a fiber, first the culm must be crushed mechanically. The crushed bamboo strands are then treated with designed enzymes to separate the fibrous material from the glue-like lignin within the plant. This includes a series of precisely timed alternate steam- washing and enzyme treatment cycles, which also act on the vertical and horizontally aligned lignin of the resulting fiber bundles. The final step is to bleach the fibers with hydrogen peroxide. The resulting natural staple length varies between 70 and 150 mm, but can be cut to shorter lengths for processing, i.e. 50 or 38 mm staple. Litrax provides the LITRAX-1 (L1) natural bamboo fibers with a special DNA coding to protect its vertical supply chain and customers. The DNA coding will guarantee that customers are buying the original, authentic bamboo fiber from Litrax. The fiber is strong and durable.

TECHNICAL DATA OF LITRAX L1 BAMBOO FIBER L1 fiber characteristics Dimensions Fineness 5.7D Fiber dimensions 38 mm from (natural 70–150 mm staple)

END USES OF BAMBOO FIBER Bamboo fabrics are made from pure bamboo fiber yarns which have excellent wet permeability, moisture vapor transmission property, soft hand, better drape, easy dying, splendid colors.

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