In the northeast Indian state of Tripura, scientists at the Department of Forest Research and Development have introduced new methods of cultivating bamboo which promise quicker establishment and higher yields of a crop that is already characterized by its heartiness and speed of growth. The process involves growing bamboo in environmentally controlled conditions, then using tissue cultures to establish derivative plants that can be transported to areas that would benefits from the establishment of new saplings.
Commercial growers of bamboo should find that this reduces their costs while also providing them with a healthy, disease-free product that has both a longer lifespan and a shorter pathway to maturity. Some strains of bamboo must be maintained for three years after seedlings are planted before they reach maturity, but if growers have greater access to already-established saplings, they can profit off of their crop in a much shorter period of time. This latest research in Tripura is a major move in support of policies that have been in place since 2007 to emphasize bamboo as a means of economic development in the area. The value of the industry there could increase more than five-fold over the next five years, and the new promises of providing crops to interested growers, especially those who do not currently have access to bamboo seeds, will go a long way toward making that potential a reality.
If this process continues to be successful in India – and it has demonstrated ninety percent success so far, establishing 3,000 plants – it could mean great potential for other areas of the world, as well. Bamboo remains underutilized, considering its amazing versatility. And its commercial applications in building and manufacture, food, medicine, and bamboo clothing can be enjoyed most everywhere, given the range of climates in which its more than one thousand species grow. There is an economic benefit to be gained from bamboo growth by whatever countries, regions, and individuals choose to take advantage of its growing popularity in the coming years.
But the prospect of growing large amounts of bamboo in shorter than ordinary times may offer the greatest benefit of all to the global environment. The possibility of increasing growth rates and expanding bamboo to new areas could be a great weapon in the fight against global warming. Since bamboo converts carbon dioxide into oxygen at three times greater a rate than trees, they can be that much more important in efforts at removing greenhouse gases from the air through the process of carbon sequestration. The fact that bamboo already grows at such an astoundingly fast rate once it has matured is a boon to its potential in that respect. As a giant grass, it can be cut and utilized and still remain in place to go on respiring carbon dioxide, even growing sometimes fifteen feet in a single day. Now, on top of that, scientific advancements present the possibility of speeding the pace of maturation for healthy, hearty plants, so that this ongoing process can begin sooner and continue for longer.
This is the promise that comes of learning to navigate the nexus of technology and nature. Our scientific endeavors can speed along the trends that will make this a better earth. If this latest research is used as it ought to be used, it will widely expand the availability of quality renewable resources, and thus lower their price, increase their visibility, make demand for and use of them more common, and exploit their economic advantage. And just by following the course of progress, without even thinking about it, we will find ourselves living in a greener future.