Bamboo an all-around good crop for Maui

Bamboo has been around for 35 million years and grows in a variety of climates such as plains, marshes and mountains. Ancient Chinese used it to make waterwheels, troughs and pipes, homes, corrals, scaffolding, steamers, plates, chopsticks, cups and a wine called ulanzi, along with using its shoots as people food.

It is technically a grass so it grows back after being harvested within three to five years versus 10 to 20 years for most trees, and it sends up more and bigger shoots the next year. It grows up to 2 inches per hour on otherwise unsuitable or degraded land, with a dense and fibrous root system that retains moisture, prevents erosion and helps rebuild the soil.

Leaves contain up to 15 percent protein, providing high-nutrition fodder for several species of animals. It absorbs more carbon dioxide than an equal area of trees and produces about 30 percent more oxygen. The dense leaf litter doubles the amount of soil-water retention.

Its physical properties compare favorably to wood, resisting shrinkage and expansion, which is why it’s increasingly being used as flooring. Its tensile strength is greater than steel and compressive strength comparable to concrete.

How about growing bamboo as a cash crop on land no longer used for cane or pineapple before it is sold to developers for homes? No need to burn and it cuts way back on irrigation.

Dennis Lokmer

Makawao