"As is the case with most elements and systems at PEG, the Bamboo Windbreak is a very multifunctional element."
The major function of these windbreaks is that they reduce the negative impacts of wind, especially on their west side (prevailing wind from the east). This is important for a farm because wind causes stress on plants, much greater evaporation than sun exposure and erosion of exposed soil. All of those impacts directly impair crop production.
In addition to crop protection, these bamboo strips produce their own harvests. For one, bamboo is very valuable building material that can be used in the construction of future PEG buildings (such as the ones shown in Phase 3). This is likely the most valuable of use, but it also provides the additional functions of providing a food source (bamboo shoots), plant material for use around the property, and an additional revenue stream as plant for sale in the nursery. Bamboo nurseries can be extremely profitable.
As a part of PEG’s whole, the bamboo strips offer connections into the other project components. The functions mentioned above create business opportunities for entrepreneurs and craftspeople, the bamboo contributes to the cycle of green waste through the PEG system as compost and mulch, it benefits the property’s aesthetics,and it shares in the global impact that PEG can have of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, and if you ever have any misplaced Pandas on property, they can eat it!
As a windbreak, bamboo is a combination of 1 and 2, the variables are the differences in species and harvesting.
Unharvested bamboo will be less permeable, as well as more vulnerable to being blown over or broken by hurricane winds.
Qualities of the Bamboo Windbreak
The Bamboo Windbreak is designed to produce a profitable crop while requiring a minimal amount of management and labor. It has a number of qualities that allow it to function this way
Easy access for harvesting, thinning
and collecting shoots.
The planting pattern for the Bamboo Windbreak is designed for maximum production of bamboo in a relatively small space while also having windbreaking effects on the landscape. The optimum planting pattern is dependant on the variety of bamboo planted.
Because of Barbados’s strict laws regarding the importation of plant material, sourcing for this bamboo could potentially be a serious impediment to getting many of the varieties listed. We recommend seeing what is available for use in Barbados and trialing 4/6 of the species in your first Bamboo Windbreak.
"The highlighted bamboo variety mentioned here is called Guadua. Guadua is not a typical clumping type bamboo, but also not a runner. Call could be called a fast clumper or a slow runner. The big ones are excellent bamboos for building. Technically "Guadua" is a genus, and most types have thorns, so beware of sourcing any bamboo that someone refers to as Guadua."
With bamboo, most of the early distribution around the world was as an ornamental. Traditional bamboo building styles and other aspects (like food) of bamboo culture were not valued.
"Easily propagated species were cheaper and more available and they dominate what can be found in most countries that do not have many native bamboos. This could very well be the case in Barbados."
As better, more useful types become available, they remain scarce because the fast-growing ornamentals are cheaper to propagate and thus cheaper.
"The beauty of bamboo of lesser utility has led to them being the most widely distributed bamboos worldwide."
In the tropics, Bambusa vulgaris, a normal green bamboo, and B. vulgaris "Vittata" with yellow culms with bright green stripes are good examples, being extremely easy to propagate, but not exceptional in strength, rot resistance, flavor, basketry quality or any other useful characteristic besides flashy color.
"Cultures that have not depended on bamboo do not appreciate the properties of really excellent quality useful bamboos or even perhaps perceive the differences between species."
So, this shows that you need to be very choosy in what you source, otherwise you are likely to end up with a variety of bamboo that grows quickly but doesn’t have much utility.
To identify bamboos in the field takes time to learn, even with the common and easy ones.
"When you visit a bamboo clump on Barbados, be sure tohave a camera along, take good pictures of the whole clump, and closeups of leaves, shoot tips and whole new shoot, young and old stems, and also note texture of the culms, both new and old: waxy? rough? are hairs present? (these may be irritating) Are there thorns? (thorny bamboos are valued in many places as effective barriers to criminals and even elephants)."
These characteristics are all diagnostic, and an expert will use them to identify the plant for you. Misidentification is however, common even in botanic gardens and nurseries. So, it is worth investing time and energy in assessing which bamboos will meet the needs of Barbados best.
With bamboo being envisioned as a useful building material, there needs to be a careful assessment of what the first commercial applications will be.
"Bamboo hotels need quantities of several sizes (species) of bamboo including very large and smaller sizes a pole one person can easily handle and an experienced crew of craftsmen."
"Building smaller beach shade structures can be an entry level business, as can bamboo fences, and they can be a way of developing the bamboo and human resources for larger projects.
Using bamboo shoots for food is a way to manage stands and provide bamboo income, and can be a quicker way to obtain a return on a bamboo investment.
"If you want to source primarily from on island, you may need to settle for varieties not on the list, but they may still be of great value. Make sure to have them identified by an expert and find out their value before propagating them."
There are multiple bamboo nurseries in Florida that ship internationally. An excellent one that sells smaller starts (to save shipping costs) is tropicalbamboo.com
The spacing between bamboo plants depends on the variety being planted, but a general rule of thumb is that the size of the bamboo determines the planting density. Smaller bamboo can be planted at a higher density, while larger bamboo should be planted at a lower density.
Because we are planting this bamboo to act as a windbreak as well as a productive plantation, we want to plant in a checkerboard pattern.
"For a medium diameter species, like Guadua angustifolia and Dendrocalamus asper , a 5 x 5 meter spacing is ideal. This results in ~160 clumps per acre, which is approximately the initial Bamboo Windbreak to be planted."
"For smaller species a 4 x 4 meter spacing is ideal."
"For some of the much larger species like Dendrocalamus giganteus the spacing canincrease up to even 10 x 10 meters."
"Below is the preferred technique for Bamboo, the Bund and Trench Method
but adapted to our situation into the
Bund and Pit Method."
It may be the best strategy to spend at least a year growing the nursery stock of bamboo and collecting different varieties.
We’ll call this year zero.
In this time, fast growing legume plants like Pigeon Pea ( cajanus cajan) could be planted in the area designated for the bamboo to start to fix nitrogen, set up shade, and provide an edible crop in the meantime.
Especially in early establishment, bamboos will grow better with some shelter and nitrogen, so inter planting with available deep-rooted nitrogen fixing shrubs and trees will increase the speed of establishment and decrease the need to add fertility.
"Cutting branches off these trees can furnish high quality mulch for the young bamboos and accelerate soil development."
This technique involves digging out soil and mounding it on the downhill side to plant the bamboo and create a trench to hold water. Because PEG has such a thin layer of soil, it would be preferable to move soil from the piles of topsoil collected to create these bunds.
Each bund should be 1 meter wide and 30 cm tall.The bunds should be prepared in advance so that they are stabilized before planting the bamboo. In future years, more soil could be dug and added to the base of the bamboo. The pit on the uphill side of the bamboo is used for heavy irrigation and for adding compost and organic matter
To plant the bamboo, first dig a large pit into the bund. Prepare the pits before the rainy season, and expose the soil to the sun and air. Then, plant at the beginning of the heavy rains. The pits need to be large enough to ensure that the roots of the bamboo can find sufficient water and nutrients. Generally the larger the pit, the better. Generally, the larger the pit the better. Rhizomes should be planted in a rather large pit of 60cm-100cm cubed. It may be best to rent a small excavators to dig these kinds of holes. For seedlings and branch cuttings, you can use a much smaller hole in the range of 3045 cm cubed.
Bund & Pit Method
"A few days before planting, thoroughly turn the soil in the pit."
To Prepare for Planting into the Pits
"Supplementary watering during the first two to three years will assist the bamboo establishment greatly."
In heavy clay soils, like those at PEG, it is best to irrigate one to two times per week. The timing and quantity of water applied will vary based on the size of the clump, soil health/type, weather patterns, and the time of year.
Here is a rough guide for bamboo’s water need. Depending on the rainfall these numbers may be reduced during certain months of the year
Apply 5 to 10 liters, 1 - 2 times per week depending on the moisture in the soil
Apply 10 to 30 liters, 1 - 2 times per week.
If the bamboo looks strong and well established, you should experiment with discontinuing watering. Try a small portion of the clumps to see how they respond, and then base future irrigation decisions on the results that you observe.
The Karst Factor
Because of the shallow topsoil at the site, it may be that the bamboo needs to be irrigated every year. This is uncertain at this time, but we are hoping that the bamboo manages on its own.
"The maintenance of the bamboo will be determined when the exact varieties are chosen and for what primary purpose."
The proper maintenance is extremely important, as a clump of bamboo can quickly become unmanageable when left without maintenance, but the maintenance regime depends heavily on the variety of bamboo and its purpose.