Bamboo is a useful commercial crop grown around the world. There are 2 broad types of Bamboo growth habits that we consider. The running types can spread quickly and become invasive, while the clumping types spread slowly and are commonly used for timber bamboo.
Timber bamboo is a significant source of commercial cellulosic fiber because it’s the fastest growing land plant species in nature.
“The need for cellulose fiber is going to continue to rise in the world, whether we have an excess of trees or a deficit,” says Hal Hinkle, the owner of a bamboo manufacturing company in Florida called BamCore. “There’s a high degree of vertical integration between a manufacturing business and its raw materials source, in this case it’s bamboo fiber.” Having local bamboo suppliers ultimately can cut down the logistics costs and provide secondary revenue opportunities in the industry.
Commonly the largest, fastest growing timber bamboo types are originally from the tropics and subtropics, making Central and South Florida excellent habitats for farming. This is also the prime condition for citrus, making former groves great options for new timber bamboo farms. Bamboo has the same soil and drainage requirements as citrus, making it a natural drop in crop for citrus.
“Timber bamboo is the fastest source of commercial cellulosic fiber and literally anything you can do with a tree, you can do with bamboo,” mentions Hinkle. Trees are turned into many paper products, durable items like furniture, and engineered building products, which all can be done with bamboo as well. Bamboo shoots, called culms, grow to their full height within the first growing season starting from a mature plant. So that could be up to 80 feet in four to eight months depending on variety. It can take another four or more years for the culms to mature to a width that is usable in manufacturing. This quickness of growth provides bamboo with an extremely strong structure. “So for equal volume, equal weight, even potentially equal density, it is stronger than wood because the fibers line up, because nature makes it grow to its full height in one year,” discusses Hinkle.
Cellulosic fiber is one of the main products that is driven to larger volumes by taking a society from undeveloped to developed and it starts with basic things like toilet paper, tissues, and baby diapers. In all of those high-waste uses of wood; bamboo can also be used. Unlike many citrus crops, you’re not trying to get an attractive marketable fruit out of it, so the need to apply pesticides for any cosmetic reason is not there. Only the health and yield of the plantation are necessary. While bamboo is not a “no-management crop,” it has a lighter management requirement.