BambooLogic is committed to developing bamboo plantations with respect for the environment and local communities and strives to fulfil various SDGs. That is why we closely collaborate with academic research centres, stakeholders, local governments, and authorities. Various experts are involved who assess, inspect, and give advice on our projects.
Invasiveness... people do not like what they do not know
One of the most common reservations about bamboo is “the invasiveness of this exotic species”. Apart from the fact that bamboo was planted in southern Europe as early as Roman times, we cannot deny that bamboo grows mainly in Asia, Africa, and South America. Invasiveness has more to do with knowledge of bamboo and management of bamboo plantations than with bamboo as a plant.
“From a European perspective, we can either manage local bamboo plantations properly to prevent negative consequences for the environment or import bamboo products from other continents with inherently high ecological footprints and other elements with a negative impact.”
'Rampant' versus 'non-rampant' varieties
There are about 1600 varieties of bamboo. These can be classified into 2 groups: ‘non-rampant bamboo’ and ‘rampant bamboo’. The root systems of the non-rampant bamboo varieties remain within a certain distance of the plant. The ‘rampant’ bamboo is the type we all know from the cliché and the one we do not want in our garden if we are trying to avoid laborious garden management.
The ‘invasiveness of bamboo is purely based on penetration of the roots. Unfortunately, the bamboo varieties introduced at European garden centres and nurseries are usually the rampant varieties. When non-rampant bamboo is planted, there is no risk of invasion.
The growth of bamboo is relatively simple to manage by means of an eco-friendly rubber foil or ditches that prevent the horizontal roots from extending outside the designated area.
Because BambooLogic strives for a maximum yield from the bamboo fields, these are closely monitored. The edges of the fields are kept clean and provided with ditches to prevent the roots from ‘running’. Field management is not just important in order to maximise the yield per hectare, but also to prevent fires, diseases, and drought problems.
A bamboo plant seldom produces seeds. This usually does not happen until the last phase of its life, on average after about 80 to 120 years. The risk of unbridled proliferation of the plant through seeds is very small.
Monoculture versus Biodiversity
A justified concern is the one regarding monocrops. Monocultures are indicated to be mostly food crops that erode the soil, promote diseases and plagues and in many ways have a negative influence on the environment.
We believe that bamboo fields do not have a negative influence on the environment, the soil, or biodiversity. On the contrary, bamboo can help restore an ecosystem and regenerate the soil. Bamboo tolerates other crops which allows mini-ecosystems to develop where bamboo goes hand in hand with local fauna and flora.
Bamboo is relatively disease-resistant and generally does not need fertiliser. The falling leaves of bamboo provide nutrition for the soil on the one hand and help keep the soil moist on the other. Through its ingenious root system, in time, it creates its own water management system. These same roots make bamboo an excellent crop to prevent soil erosion and retain water in the soil. In the BambooLogic fields, we only enrich the soil organically and where necessary.
In the first place, bamboo is a type of grass. Bamboo is not actually harvested but pruned, rather like ‘cutting the grass’. Once the plant has been planted out in the field, it will be there for a very long time. The plant grows year in, year out. Around 20% of the canes, or culms, are cut for processing. This enables the bamboo field to develop into a complete ecosystem.
In other parts of the world, bamboo forests are a habitat for important animal species like the giant panda, elephants, and mountain gorillas. In Portugal, we hope to attract smaller animals, particularly birds and a variety of insects. Bamboo fields also provide ideal shelter for many rodents and small wild animals like deer and wild boar.
Cases in Asia and Latin America have shown that newly planted bamboo forests develop their own ecosystem after a while that attracts reptiles like frogs and lizards, but also bamboo-specific mammals and birds. The enriched soil around the bamboo plants is teeming with insects and is ideal for a variety of ground vegetation, including bamboo-specific mushrooms. Bamboo roots and leaves are not toxic and provide room for interspersed crops with other vegetation.
In debates about climate change, people often voice their concerns about the intensive irrigation of monocrops. This is also a point of attention in Portugal and Spain. It is assumed that climate change will result in the Mediterranean becoming drier, which will have consequences for food production in general and the need for irrigation in particular.
During its first growth phase, bamboo naturally needs a lot of water. After 3 to 5 years, the bamboo plants thrive on natural rainfall and they can survive periods of drought due to their extensive root system that retains water in the soil.
An irrigation plan is drawn up for the BambooLogic fields. The bamboo fields in Alcoutim border on a river and there are two wells. An irrigation system is constructed to create maximum conditions for the plants to survive their first years and overcome any periods of drought.
In a ‘plantation environment’, fire risks must be assessed continually. Bamboo plants have a constant leaf fall. This generates vast quantities of leaf litter. The fallen leaves form organic material on the one hand, and on the other hand, this layer helps to retain moisture in the soil. That is why BambooLogic does not clear the dead leaves.
Given the large biomass (root system) of bamboo underground, the plant can recover even after having been entirely burnt down.
The fire plan provides firebreaks around the bamboo plantation to prevent the spread of fire. Each field team is also equipped with the necessary equipment to fight fires initially.