Bamboo is a fantastic, not a miracle plant
Bamboo is a fantastic, not a miracle plant

Bamboo is a fantastic, not a miracle plant

In the recent past, we have observed a rapidly growing interest in bamboo, both as a plant and as a material. Realistic expectations based on scientific methods and results are crucial for the global success of bamboo. To meet the expectations of bamboo with its role as a sustainable agroforestry or forestry crop in mitigating climate change, reclaiming land and soil and creating livelihoods for the poorest, it is essential to use robust scientific data. Such data is important to understand the growth patterns, ecological benefits, and economic potential of bamboo.

The genetic origins of bamboo, which is the only group of grasses to have evolved in forests, determine its growth habits, anatomy, and physico-chemical properties, and how bamboo can be used.  Second, to scale bamboo propagation, planting and harvesting to very large scale, a sound understanding of the physiology of bamboo (photosynthesis, water use efficiency, …) is required. Further, the environmental impact assessment of large-scale bamboo cultivation needs precise data to support sustainable practices. To this effect, quantification of bamboo and its parts (culms, rhizomes, leaves, fruits), require novel scientific methods. This new methodology, originating in bamboo research, opens many new doors, and can lead to innovative applications of bamboo and maximize its contribution to sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

Main facts and results will be reviewed, and some future research directions will be highlighted. Only with a firm scientific foundation can bamboo be effectively positioned as a key player in the global quest for sustainable solutions.

Johan Gielis

Department of Biosciences Engineering

University of Antwerp

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