BAMBOO propagation on a massive and commercial scale is now possible with the discovery of best management practices in the propagation of bamboo shoots in the research done by the Pampanga Agricultural State University (PSAU).
PSAU president Honorio Soriano hailed the management practices as the best ever happened in the bid to make bamboo a commercially viable industrial material and an alternative to commercial lumber.
Soriano points to the bamboo nursery that it had established through the help and support of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) as the facility that helped benchmark the best practices through series of experiments which approaches best suited to the propagation of bamboo shoots.
PCCARD funded the nursery with an aid of P5 million. The nursery housed the various varieties and samples of bamboo. Also part of the outputs of the project is the establishment of bamboo plantation and the Smarter Bamboo Nursery. The nursery, which was established in 2018, aims to increase bamboo production in Central Luzon.
Soriano said timing is an essential aspect of the success of the propagation process. He said the age of the bamboo cuttings, as well as the season from which the cuttings have been taken and would be planted, are all key areas to be considered in ensuring the success of the propagation.
Timing and the quality of bamboo shoots contribute to 85 percent survival rate which is a great improvement from the 50 percent in the previous propagation efforts.
The timing of the planting season is also essential according to Soriano. The months of July, August, and September, which are cooler months, contribute to the hardening process. Under the selection of bamboo shoots, the PSAU research discovered that the age and quality of planting materials greatly affects the survival of the bamboo shoots. Planting materials would need to be at least six months to one year old to at least qualify as material.
“The planting materials need not be too old or too young,” Soriano said.
Management practices under the project dubbed “Development of Strategies for Propagule and Shoot Production of Three Bamboo Species” also play a key role in improving the survival of bamboo shoots. The PSAU management system places great value on maintaining of temperature, moisture and humidity of the shoots in the nursery facility.
Soriano added that they also maximize the use of rooting media. Optimal results are achieved with the use of 10gm NaCl. The use of sand as soil medium also contributes to the easy rooting of the shoots.
Soriano said the use of sprinkler is ideal during dry season as it helped increase bamboo shoot production in kawayan tinik from 6-7 to 10-12 shoots/clump per year. Understanding the rooting procedure for different bamboo varieties is also essential, according to Soriano.
Soriano said that two-node branch cutting method is recommended, resulting in 64 percent survival rate in kawayan tinik, 46 percent survival rate in bolo, and 50 percent survival rate in giant bamboo. He added that some species bamboo can be marcotted like the giant bamboo and kawayan tinik while the bayug variety is best reproduced through the nodal technique.
Source of bamboo
The PSAU nursery has been supplying the bamboo needs of private companies and even government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Soriano said each seedling costs P100 in production, these are sold by PSAU to partners to recover the cost of production and produce more seedlings. PSAU is optimistic that with the new methods and techniques they have developed, more will venture into the possibility of commercial bamboo propagation.
This, as bamboo's many vital economic and ecologic uses may yet propel it as the country's next alternative material for lumber and as an effective greening agent to increase the country's forest cover.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu made this statement, as he promoted the use of bamboo species as an alternative to lumber. Cimatu is also keen on using different bamboo species for the government's greening programs.
According to the PCAARRD, bamboo is a popular non-timber forest product and a viable substitute for wood in furniture, wall and floor panels.
PCAARRD said bamboo can be used in handicrafts and consumed as food. Studies show it also prevents soil erosion and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. There are 62 species of bamboo thriving in the Philippines and 21 of which can only be found in the country.
Engineered bamboo and greening efforts
Since interest on the many uses of bamboo peaked in the past 10 years, many areas in the country have ventured into the possibility of using bamboo as an alternative to lumber. Bayambang town in Pangasinan hosts a factory for "engineered bamboo."
"Bamboo can be a potential alternative to lumber and this is what they are doing in Pangasinan in the Green Bamboo Factory," Cimatu said, adding bamboo is easy to plant and grow, and has high survival, but many of our people have not understood the benefits and uses of this species.
Commercial species of kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), bayog (Bambusa sp.), kawayan kiling (Bambusa vulgaris) and giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) have long been used in the cottage industries of basket weaving, hut-making and furniture making in the many provinces of the country.
"Our country has only 23 percent remaining forest cover and we are thinking of using bamboo as reforestation species to increase our forest cover under the National Greening Program (NGP). If we plant more bamboo, it can be a source of material for lumber using the technology to convert it. It can reduce dependency on wood from forest plantation, thus, allowing more trees to grow and cover our bald mountains," he said.
Bamboo reduces carbon sink. It is otherwise known as a "carbon sequester" as a hectare of bamboo plantation sequesters 12 tons of carbon dioxide each year. As watershed protection, a bamboo plant typically binds six cubic meter of soil. It yields six times more cellulose than the fast growing pine tree.
Bamboo plantations and bamboo desks
Pampanga boasts of one of the biggest efforts in propagating bamboo since 2010. The bamboos were planted by the then provincial bamboo council and the municipality in coordination with the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Pamcham), which then pushed for bamboo propagation and the use of engineered bamboo as an alternative to commercial lumber.
The bamboos were to be used for the unique line of environment-friendly products developed in the nearby materials recovery facility in Lubao town. The town, with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry, facilitated the training for the engineering of bamboo slots for the creation of bamboo desks.
The facility was also able to make charcoal briquettes with a very high British Thermal Unit (BTU) and these were produced from shredded shavings and waste from the engineered bamboo furniture. In 2011, the facility was able to give members of the Magalang Bamboo Growers Association (MBGA) skills and technical knowledge on how to make bamboo slots for furniture and bamboo parquets.
The ultimate objective of the project is a sustainable income for farmers and livelihood for their families and the community, to be achieved by turning bamboo, "the poor man's timber," into a cash crop, not only through pole sales but also through nursery raising, plantation and primary processing for bamboo-based products and for food processing.
Former Pamcham Bamboo Program coordinator Myrna Bituin said the potential of bamboo is limitless.
"Just imagine using bamboo in making furniture and even floor parquets. The engineered bamboos are flat and nodes are removed so that the bamboo can be fashioned as slots," Bituin said.
Such products, she stressed, are durable and insect-resistant since engineered bamboo-finished products are chemically treated.
Even at present, the Lubao facility has been making bamboo desks. A school desk made of bamboo would cost more than P1,000 compared to the P700 to P800 for a school desk made of wood. However, desks made of bamboo are sturdier and could last up to five years. Lumber desks can only manage a maximum of two years inside classrooms.