Since about 1980 I have been in the business of promoting bamboo as a food
& fiber crop. In the early 1980's Tom Hallum at the UC Davis Small Farm
Center got a couple of interested people together because he networked his
contacts. He did not know much about bamboo nor did the ag research and
extension people in California. The only Extension Service publication on
file was "How to Eradicate Golden Bamboo" or something like like.
As I progressed in bamboo knowledge, it was without the help of the
established ag research and extension people. However, old documents from
USDA supported research were invaluable. Most of the responses by these
people were negative. In 1985 I went to China to attend the 2nd
International Bamboo Workshop. Sponsered by the Chinese Academy of Forestry
and International Development and Research Centre of Canada. There I had my
years opened to the potential. Fully 50% of China's forestry is based on
bamboo. Many production areas were planted 500 years ago by imperial decree
to increase production for food and fiber. One only needs to look at China
to see what our food and fiber problems will be in the *near* future.
Progress in promoting bamboo has been slow. If one measures in ten year
segments there may be a doubling of interest and key people in the USA.
There are a couple of people doing botanical research, like Dr. Lynn Clark
at Iowa State University and the late Drs. Tom Soderstrom and F. A.
McClure. The USDA was involved in research up to 1968. But research funding
was killed. Why?
Now in the Pacific NW where forest products tend to come mostly from
federal lands there is renewed interest in the agro-forestry potential of
the giant grass. A Senior Research Assistant at OSU-Corvallis, Daryl
Ehrensing, was contacted by a major papermaking company about bamboo as an
alternative fiber source. Now there is some interest from his department.
He has assisted in the Northwest's first agro-forestry workshop on bamboo.
Another responding extension agent is Dr. Carol Miles of WSU. She is
assisting in the development of another bamboo agro-forestry workshop in
1997. There are a few out there with fresh minds and can see the potential
of new crops. As the fledgling bamboo industry grows so will interest by
the state supported institutions.
I believe this is a pretty standard progression of new crops in this
country (USA). It is probably the same in Australia. I hear of a different
approach in Europe. It seems things in the bamboo field have moved much
faster there. Of course, in S. America, SE Asia and Africa bamboo projects
are one of the tools in economic development.
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