With the threat of Yellow Leaf Disease spreading to vast tracts of arecanut plantations looming large, farmers in the State’s coastal belt have now begun commercial cultivation of bamboo in a small way.
The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, which has taken the lead, has distributed 10,000 tissue cultured plants of bamboo from Bhatkal to Kasaragod (Kerala) in the last one year, according to sangh director and convener M.G. Sathyanarayana. Except a farmer who has cultivated them as an orchard, a majority of them have taken it up as border cultivation.
The saplings have been sourced from a well recognised tissue culture institute, he told The Hindu .
Mr. Sathanarayana said that the sangh took the initiative because bamboo cultivation will not only be the best alternative for farmers whose plantations have been hit by Yellow Leaf Disease, its cultivation helps maintain water table. Bamboo helps preserve rainwater. Now, there are no legal hurdles to farmers taking up commercial cultivation and sale of bamboo.
Trials of using it as a source of energy are also under way, Mr. Sathyanarayana, who has planted about 250 saplings of bamboo, said.
The sangh has distributed six commercially important varieties in the region. They are Bambusa balcooa (Bheema bamboo), Dendrocalamus brandisii (Burma bamboo), Bambusa nutans , Bambusa tulda (Bengal bamboo), Dendrocalamus asper (Giant bamboo or vegetable bamboo) and Dendrocalamus hamiltonii (Tama bamboo used for making furnitures).
Mr. Sathyanarayana said that shoots of Dendrocalamus asper (locally called Kanile) can be harvested six times a year. It now cost ₹200 a kg in the local market.
When commercially cultivated, by feeding fertilizers and water with weed management, the harvest can be started from the fifth year of planting. The life span of the cluster will be 30 years or the harvest can be done up to three decades.
It should be well taken care in the first three years of planting, he said.
“One can earn a net profit of ₹1.20 lakh from an acre of plantation per annum. The market price now stood at ₹4,000 per tonne,” he said.
Vice-Chancellor of BEST Innovation University, Anantpur P. Chowdappa, said that some varieties can be harvested from three-and-half years of planting. Bamboo is best suited for coastal and Malnad regions as an alternative crop in Yellow Leaf Disease-hit arecanut plantations. Industries manufacturing incense sticks (agarbathi) require Bambusa tulda . The agarbathi industry also demands bamboo powder. In addition, there is demand for bamboo charcoal and bamboo briquettes, Mr. Chowdappa, who was formerly a director of the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasaragod, Kerala. said.