Archive for category Agroforestry

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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Dendrocalamus Membranaceous Bamboo

Dendrocalamus Bamboo is of special interest to me, as it is one of the bamboo species which is almost fully solid. It offers to be a good substitute for wood, which is a raw material for us, in the handicraft industry.

The few plants, that we have here, were established using seed from ICFRE.

The culms of this particular genotype are fully solid till about 18 feet. Subsequently, the inter-nodal cavity begins to appear. The diameter of the cavity however, continues to be small till the next 10 to 15 feet. Above 25 feet, the diameter of the cavity (hole)  begins to increase. The wall thickness, overall, is very good. The bamboo has been seen to grow to about 35 to 40 feet. The outer diameter at breast height is about 4 to 6 inches.

I have been trying, in vain, to develop a vegetative nursery to establish a plantation. I have tried using auxins ( NAA and IBA) at various strengths ( 1000 to 5000 ppm) but failed to root the cuttings. I wonder, if any specialist on the Agro-Forestry or Bamboo forum could offer guidance and help.

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Hamiltonii and Nutaans Bamboo as a Raw Material for Craft

As a farmer turned entrepreneur craftsman, my journey of diversification, from conventional agriculture to bamboo agro-forestry has been an interesting saga.

Wood is an important raw material for us. Unfortunately, this is a non-renewable resource, which has been over exploited over the last so many years. We, as mankind, have wiped out our forest cover at an alarming rate (and still doing so). Our  indifference and greed has thus resulted in precipitating irreversible ecological changes. For instance, global warming is a direct result of pollution and deforestation, which, if not controlled, could wipe out 20% of Bangladesh, due to the rising sea level. One can cite numerous examples.

Policy makers, have now, grudgingly accorded high priority to ecological rehabilitation. Afforestation has thus become a global focus. CITES, is a result of one such global endeavor to save our forests.

Recently, CITES has listed Shisham and indian Red Wood in its watch list- Wooden Handicraft Industry has had a direct hit.

For some reason, I had a premonition, couple of years ago, and I had commenced collecting information on Bamboo, including elite planting materials etc. I have been in touch with many universities and my travels took me to all quarters of the country, wherever bamboo was said to be growing.

We short-listed Bambusa Balcooa, Bambusa Nutaans, Dendrocalamus Hamiltonii, Dendrocalamus Strictus and Dendrocalamus Membranaceous.

We made trial plots- but unfortunately, the rooting in Membranaceous and Balcooa was poor- we lost all plants.

We managed saving a few plants of Hamiltonii, Nutaans and Strictus.

The bottle-neck with bamboo, to be exploited as a wood, is its inter-nodal cavity and fiber orientation. Notwithstanding, its an excellent resource since it grows fast, and, by way of systematic agro-forestry, also renewable.

I have seen some variants of Dendrocalamus Strictus and Membranaceous almost fully solid, a quality, that perhaps, can make them a good substitute to wood.

Nutaans and Balcooa are thick walled- excellent for construction works etc. Both have straight growing habits, thus have a ready market.

In a recent experiment, I cut full length culms 2 year old of Nutaans and Hamiltonii- further divided them into 2 foot segments, to compare the wall thickness at similar heights. I noticed that Hamiltonii, though thicker at the base, with almost same wall thickness as Nutaans, lost out at around 18 feet, where its walls started to become thinner than Nutaans. Further, Nutaans is open culming- and easier to harvest- especially, if you are harvesting in a horse-shoe pattern (selective harvest)


In light of above, I feel Nutaans is a better choice for farmers, than Hamiltonii.

I am still in the process of establishing Balcooa and Membranaceous- rooting has been a problem with Membranaceous---- Any suggestions or advice, as to how to get it to root ???

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Rattan Cane and Bamboo for Handicrafts

Rattan Cane and Bamboo are often confused with one another, despite them belonging to entirely different families.

Rattan Cane is a creeper-palm. The word "Rattan" ( Malay rotan) is a family of about 600 climbing palms belonging to subfamily Calamoideae (Greek 'kálamos' = reed).

Synonyms for Rattan- manila, or malacca (named after the ports- Manila and Malacca), Manau (Malay rotan manau, which is the trade name for Calamus manan canes). The climbing habit is associated with the characteristics of its flexible woody stem, derived typically from a secondary growth, makes rattan a liana rather than a true wood.

The largest rattan genus is Calamus, distributed in Asia and Africa.

Daemonorops, Ceratolobus, Korthalsia, Plectocomia, Plectocomiopsis, Myrialepis, Calospatha, Pogonotium and Retispatha, are found in Southeast Asia.  Laccosperma (syn. Ancistrophyllum), Eremospatha and Oncocalamus are found in Africa.

The bamboos are grasses- evergreen perennial flowering plants of subfamily Bambusoideae, family Poaceae. Bamboos have hollow inter-nodal regions, though some are almost solid, e.g., Dendrocalamus Strictus and Membranaceous.  The vascular bundles in Bamboos are scattered throughout the stem instead of in a cylindrical arrangement. The dicot woody xylem is also absent. The absence of secondary growth wood makes bamboos columnar rather than tapering.

Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product. Bamboo has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel.

Bamboo and Cane agro-forestry systems, thus offer a sustainable option to save our forest cover, which is the backbone of human existence on earth.

Bamboo and Cane are an excellent raw material for handicraft industry. 20160527_194924_resized71KXC7vxZ4L._SL1500_12_Seater_setty2-Asian-Moderne51tPjGFv8zL._SL1500_81K0QD9NwRL._SL1500_640c4c0063bc04bd7c1dd76f2dd4bc80800px-Baseball_bat-Louisville_slugger_construction

The word bamboo comes from the Kannada term bambu, which was introduced to English through Indonesian and Malay.

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Planting Material for Bamboo Agro-Forestry

The selection and availability of the right genotype(s) of Bamboo, is one of the prime bottle-necks in establishing an Agro-Forestry plantation system.

It's a dilemma I am currently encountering.

I am considering bamboo as a plantation crop on my farm, and have been researching suitable genotypes. I have been in touch with many institutions- private, a well as government, NGO's, universities, traders, sellers, growers etc.

I have come to realize, with dismay, that most private institutions have their own sales agenda and specifically evolved sales pitch.  Thus, I have ruled out buying blindly from any of them.

Universities and Government bodies are safer. However, they can only offer to sell what exists in their bamboo- herbarium, which, at times is just a chronology of research trial plots, without extensive trials.

In light of above uncertainties,  I have decided to stagger the plantation endeavor.

Instead of buying outright, I am now establishing a small trial plot, where I am planting all shortlisted varieties that I have collected during my Pan-India travels.

I would rather wait for 3 years than waste the effort and the land, with a wrong choice of planting material.

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Bamboo may help stall global warming

Agro-forestry of Bamboo as a plantation crop offers a novel mechanism to reduce the impact of global warming and slowing down climate  change. As yet untapped, bamboo is a strategic resource that tropical countries can use  to manage climate change, while at the same time, provide beneficial ‘eco-friendly' sources of income for their agrarian/ rural populations.
However, two major hurdles to bamboo’s more rapid development are-

  • lack of appreciation of its significant benefits by the policy makers
  • its classification as a forest-produce, bringing bamboo under the ambit of forest laws/regulation.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is beginning to recognize the potential of bamboo agro-forestry systems (or plantation agriculture) in mitigating  climate  change. Bamboo plantations offer  an efficient carbon  sink, capable of significantly reducing the negative effects of greenhouse gases on the planet. Besides, it also creates considerable biomass, an energy/fuel source for rural households. As a substitute for wood-fuel, bamboo-fuel offers a successful mechanism to avoid deforestation, and save our precious forest wealth.  
Bamboo, belonging to the grass family, grows fast, thus an excellent resource for rapid creation of dense vegetation.

Further Research is necessary to exploit its full potential and gauge/estimate the global  bamboo  carbon  stock. However, recent research in China, The Red Dragon, now, also called The Bamboo Kingdom -has compared bamboo with the fast-growing fir tree. The results indicate that bamboo is comparable and in some cases superior in its ability to sequester carbon than most forest hardwood or softwood trees. Strategically, bamboo plantations, offer a new 'ecological infrastructure’ to combat climate change in a cost-effective way.

Besides its green foot-print, Bamboo Agro-forestry systems also help in regulating erosion, control of water pollution ( the root system helps to remove pollutants), as wind breaks and at times partial shade for the under-crop in a two-tier cropping system.

Vetiver Systems ( see detailed below) have been tried and tested for restoration of degraded soils by mitigating and controlling the effect of industrial effluents discharged into the water resources.

To my mind, coupling bamboo plantation ( agro-forestry system)  with an under-story crop of Vetiver- should be a good cropping system to mitigate climate change, as well as water pollution, while at the same time an aid to soil-restoration. 


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Bamboo Agroforestry

As a farmer, I have been studying the prospects of bamboo as a plantation crop ( agro-forestry), to substitute Poplars and Eucalyptus. Few bottle-necks exist, for bamboo agro-forestry systems to be successful in India.

To my mind, bamboo can be a very lucrative plantation crop, PROVIDED that

  • Farmers are educated with the technical skills- both, for growing and primary processing.
  • Primary Processing and some value addition is done at the farm- by the farmer himself. In other words, the farmer has to evolve into an agro-entrepreneur. Necessary knowledge-systems, infrastructure and Capital Expenditure would be required by the farmer, for the said evolution.
  • Market linkages are established between the growers and the processors and a cluster model is developed (see below).
  • Good planting material is made available. Different genotypes of bamboo have different mechanical properties. Thus, choice of planting material, has to be market oriented, besides its suitability to the local agro-climate. Thus Bambusa Balcooa is a good choice where fiber and pulp industries exist. Likewise, Bambusa Nutans is more suitable for the handicraft industry. A self sufficient cluster model, where the raw material is grown in the vicinity of the industry consuming it- would go a long way in promoting the bamboo agro-forestry system.
  • Bamboo is de-classified as Forest produce and it is allowed to be transported, un-hindered, without any interference from the forest department.
  • Market oriented novel applications for bamboo need to be explored and related processing capabilities/facilities developed.


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