The world of bamboo is not only fascinating, but also
plays a pivotal role in sustainable tropical agriculture. It is a
sustainable resource with literally thousands of practical uses. Asian
countries have realized the full potential of bamboo for thousands of
years already and they are have been growing hundreds of species for
structural and edible purpose. As of lately, Latin American countries
are also becoming increasingly aware of its incredible potential and
value. Unfortunately, the agricultural and practical value of bamboo
is still largely overlooked in Puerto Rico.
After spending years of growing and popularizing tropical rare fruits
in Puerto Rico, I have decided to add a new, worthwhile project to my
repertoire: growing and popularizing valuable bamboo species.
Currently, only one species can be found in abundance locally: Bambusa
vulgaris. This species is not only
the most common species in the world, but it is considered to be one
of the inferior species . Its high starch content makes it prone to
powder beetle destruction and it is therefore not suitable to be
used for construction; its shoots are too bitter for fresh
consumption. Its main benefit is that it grows in swampy areas and
is able to prevent erosion. At the same time, it breaks easily and
is therefore often seen as an unwanted hazard. B. vulgaris
is virtually the only bamboo species commonly known in Puerto
Rico. Needless to say that people’s view about bamboo is highly
influenced by this isolated bamboo experience. Whenever I mention the
word “bamboo” to conventional local farmers, the common response is disinterest to
put it mildly.
However, if we look at the amazing bamboo facts, it becomes
self-evident that this plant could have a very significant, positive
impact on Puerto Rico’s agriculture and future.