News and knowhow for farmers

How to start off in bamboo farming

Bamboo is the most versatile tree grass with the ability to grow even in poorest soils. It grows well in any type of soil with a soil PH of between 6-8 and requires lowest inputs and care. This tree is, however, most valued, thanks to its multiple usage that has earned it ‘golden tree’ name across the world.
Land preparation and planting
Planting bamboo does not necessarily require one to plough the whole farm. One is only required to dig holes with a spacing of 5m by 5m. Bamboo clubs meant for the production of edible shoots, animal, chicken fodder planting can be planted on a closer spacing of 2.5m to 3m. Equally, bamboo clubs being planted on wetlands or soggy land can be done on a closer spacing.
Place the bamboo seedling at the center of the hole before filling it with soil mixed with manure. Water it regularly depending on the type of soils until its rhizome is fully developed.
Bamboo is a woody grass and its roots and rhizomes benefit greatly from top dressing of mulch. Rhizomes are naturally attracted to loose topsoil and thrive when mulch is applied. Depending on the material used, mulch can also help recycle nutrients back into the soil. Some suitable mulch material can be bark or leaf mulch, grass, manure, compost, chipped wood and sawdust. Typically 5 – 15cm of mulch is sufficient for bamboo grown in the ground. In areas with severe cold weathers, apply at least 30cm deep layer of mulch
Fertilizer application
 Although not mandatory, it has been established that adding fertilizer to bamboo can promote its growth and more vibrant leaves. Bamboo, just like other grasses, consumes large amounts of nitrogen hence any fertilizer rich in this nutrient like 20N 5P 5K is suited for it. However, the most preferred fertilizer for bamboo is organic compost or manure, which is applied by top dressing the growing area. The fertilizer requires water to assist in distributing the nutrient hence where rains is erratic, daily watering is a must. The recommended time for fertilizer application is during the shooting.
Pest and disease control
Bamboo contains a substance called bamboo-kun – an antimicrobial agent that gives the plant a natural resistance to pest and fungi infestation, though some pathogenic problems do still exist in some plantations. This substance eliminates more than two thirds of bacteria that attempt to grow on the plant. This anti-bacterial property makes bamboo farming more economical than many agricultural based investments. However, some bamboo seedlings can be affected by leaf rust. The rust can be can be controlled using any broad spectrum fungicide.
The growth of bamboo plants can be hampered by weeds and other competing vegetation. It is important to control and arrest the growth of weeds around each bamboo clump. Failure to do so will invariably result in poor root and stem development in the young bamboos. An area within a radius of 60cm around each plant should be cleared of all weeds and competing vegetation then apply mulching.
Pruning is the cutting and removal of culms, branches or leaves of the bamboo. This can be done with sharp pruners saw depending on the thickness of the culm. Pruning branches gives the stem a robust growth and width. Once any part of the bamboo is cut, it will grow again, a property that allows the crop’s dimensions to be permanently controlled. When pruning bamboo, make cuts just above the culm node and cut above the branch node when pruning branches. By so doing, all stubs are removed hence preventing the tree from rotting.
Bamboo stems mature in 3 yrs after transplanting and can survive for at least 8 years. Harvesting is done sometimes throughout the year or twice when sap content is low depending on the ecological conditions and type of bamboo. Lack of harvesting leads to congestion of clump, resulting to poor quality and quantity of bamboo stems.
Bamboo is ripe for harvesting when it reached 3-4 years. Harvesting of this tree is, however, labor intensive as it requires more than an individual to safely remove a single culm without damaging surrounding ones.
Where to get seedlings in Kenya
Kajiado County’s Isinya Kitil Farm, a bamboo specialist, is one of the leading distributors of both bamboo plant-lets and seedlings for local and international markets. The company has an online platform where farmers easily purchase or book for their specific variety. Each plant-let goes for Sh50 and is packaged in a tray containing 66 items.
Seedlings measuring 6-9 inches are sold at Sh200 each and farmers are not restricted on quantity of seedlings to purchase. The farms also sell bamboo mini clumps at Sh500.
For more information about prices and other services offered by this company, contact 0722729630 or email [email protected]

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