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Bamboo resources and utilization in China - Fu Maoyi

Director, Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry, CAF, Fuyang, Zhejiang, China

Area and habitats

a) Total land area of the country - 9.6 million km2
b) Forested areas.
Forested areas - 125 million ha

Forest type

Forests for timber

Tree crops

Protected forests

Fuel wood

Special timber

Bamboo

Total

%

67.0

11.5

12.2

3.7

2.6

3.0

100.0


Vegetation types

a) Coniferous forest
b) Broadleaf tree forest (including bamboo forest)
c) Shrubland and grassland
d) Sparse tree vegetation
e) Desert
f) Frozen plain
g) High mountainous areas with sparse vegetation
h) Grassy marshland
i) Swamp land
j) Aquatic vegetation
Bamboo forest type in China

Temperate bamboo forest - Mountainous bamboo forest: Major species: Indocalamus tessellatus, Sasamorpha sinica, Sinarundinaria nitida, Sinarundinaria sp., Fargesia spathacea, Brachystachyum densiflorum and others.

Warm bamboo forest - Hilly - mountainous bamboo forest: Major species: Chimonobambusa tumidinoda, Ch. quadrangularis, Phyllostachys pubescens, Ph. bambusoides, Ph. nigra var. henonis, Ph. congesta, Ph. makinoi, Ph. nuda, Ph. viridis, Ph. bambusoides f. tanakae, Sinobambusa tootsik, Pleioblastus amarus, Indosasa shibataeoides and others.

Hot bamboo forest- Hilly - mountainous bamboo forest: Major species: Thyrsostachys siamensis, Pseudosasa amabilis, Dinochloa puberula, Schizostachyum hainanense and others.

Valley - plain bamboo fewest: Major species: Pceudostachyum polymorphum, Lingnania chungii, Dendrocalamus latiflorus, D. giganteus, D. membranaceus, Bambusa flexuosa, B. textilis, B. pervariabilis, Schizostachyum chinense and others.

Note: This article is in continuation of an earlier one by the same author - see page 105. Eds.

Climate

China is a typical monsoon climatic country and the wet air from summer monsoon is the main resource of rainfall on the mainland. Temperature wise, China has 5 climatic zones i.e. 1) cold temperate zone, 2) temperate zone, which can be divided into two sub-zones i.e. temperate sub-zone and warm temperate sub-zone, 3) subtropical zone, which can be divided into three sub-zones i.e. northern subtropics, middle subtropics and southern subtropics, 4) tropical zone, and 5) special cold climatic zone with high altitude (4000-5000 m above sea level) and middle latitude (27-40°N). In warm temperate subzone to tropical zone, bamboos are growing wildly. The subtropics with annual average temperature of 14-22°C and annual accumulation temperature 4000-8500°C is the most important area for bamboo production in China. Bamboos grow in different habitats as mentioned above and in different zones.

Genera and species

a) Total number of genera and species - 39 genera with around 500 species.

b) 10 important commercial species: i) Phyllostachys pubescens, ii) Ph. praecox, iii) Ph. glauca, iv) Ph. bambusoides, v) Ph. viridis, vi) Dendrocalamus latiflorus, vii) Bambusa textilis, viii) Neosinocalamus affinis, ix) Dendrocalamus membranaceus, x) D. oldhami.

c) Threatened and endangered species - Fargesia spp.

d) Assessment of resources available, bamboo rich areas, see Table 1.

Conservation

Botanic gardens, bambusetum: More than 20 botanic gardens and bambuseta have already been established, among which Anji Bamboo Botanic Garden, Hangzhou Botanic Garden, Hainan Bamboo Botanic Garden, Hunan Botanic Garden, Xishuangbanna Botanic Garden are well known because of large number of species growing in each garden.

Ex situ and in situ methods adopted, species involved: Both ex situ and in situ methods have been adopted by botanic gardens and bambuseta and the species involved can be more than 300 i.e. in Anji and Huaan Bamboo Botanic Gardens but generally, each garden has more than 100 species.

Plantation and development, provenance trials: Plantations have developed fast; annual average increase is 2.45% (30 years' mean). In the national 5 and 10 year plans, China will increase bamboo plantations at the rate 66 000 ha in each year with 50% of fine species or superior genotypes. The provenance trials will be laid out in the near future.

Bamboos grown in homesteads and village gardens: Some important commercial species are often planted in homesteads and village gardens, which are usually Phyllostachys praecox, Dendrocalamus latiflorus, Neosinocalamus affinis etc.

Indigenous knowledge and ethnobotany: Researchers have paid significant attention to indigenous knowledge but only a few of them have studied or published details of ethnobotany, especially in remote areas such as in Yunnan.

Seed bank, tissue culture: Seed bank in China is not ready, but several research institutes have already conducted research on bamboo tissue culture, such as RISF, GFRI etc. Many have successfully produced some superior genotypes and this method is combined with the traditional propagation methods for accelerating multiplication.

Genetics and improvement: These are the weak fields of research in China. Some basic studies, mechanism of bamboo flowering, pollen structure, chromosome numbers have produced results. Successful hybridization work has been carried out.

Propagation methods: All three kinds of propagation methods, i.e. vegetative, seeds and tissue culture, have been used. Most useful one is the vegetative propagation, which is well developed and sub-branch cuttings have been used successfully. Seed sowing and tissue culture is not very common because of the limited availability of plant materials.

Bamboo resources

It is well known that China has 39 genera and around 500 species of bamboos covering 4.4 million hectares of land area and total culm standing crop of 97 million tons, distributed mainly in 18 provinces and occupies 3% of total forest area (Table 1 and 2). All the 3 groups, i.e. monopodial, the sympodial and the amphipodial are present, in 4 regions and 2 sub-regions of the country.

Forest area in the world, especially in tropical and subtropical regions, is dramatically reduced due to heavy damage caused by human beings. In some Asian countries, the area of bamboo stands is increasing. Especially in China, the increasing rate of pure bamboo stands is 2.45% (average of 30 years). Including mixed bamboo forests in remote high mountainous region, the total area is of 6.8 million hectares.

Table 1. Bamboo stand resources in main producing provinces of China

Unit: million ha

Number

Province

Total area of bamboo

Area of Ph. pubescens

Area of other species

1

Sichuan

74.00

1.90

72.10

2

Fujian

62.79

59.20

3.59

3

Hunan

61.20

57.10

4.10

4

Zhejiang

59.82

54.40

5.42

5

Jiangxi

53.40

52.93

0.47

6

Guangdong

31.80

10.81

20.99

7

Anhui

17.63

15.17

2.46

8

Taiwan

17.56

0.33

17.23

9

Guangxi

16.32

9.51

6.81

10

Shanxi

13.45

0.03

13.42

11

Yunnan

10.20

0.03

10.17

12

Hubei

8.75

6.22

2.53

13

Hainan

5.39

-

5.39

14

Guizhou

4.43

2.00

2.43

15

Jiangsu

4.00

2.00

2.00

16

Henan

1.67

0.20

1.47

17

Shangdong

0.18

0.01

0.17

18

Shanxi

0.02

-

0.02

Total


442.61

271.84

170.77


Table 2. Bamboo genera cultivated/indigenous in China

Group

Genera

Sympodial, clumped

Ampelocalamus, Bambusa, Cephalostachyum, Chimonocalamus, Dendrocalamopsis, Dendrocalamus, Drepanostachyum, Gigantochloa, Melocalamus, Monocladus, Neohouzeaua, Neomicrocalamus, Neosinocalamus, Schizostachyum, Thyrsostachys

Sympodial, scattered

Fargesia, Melocanna, Pseudostachyum, Thamnocalamus, Yushania

Monopodial, scattered

Acidosasa, Brachystachyum, Ferrocalamus, Indosasa, Netasasa, Phyllostachys, Semiarundinaria

Monopodial or amphipodial scattered or mixed

Chimonobambusa, Oligostachyum, Pleioblastus

Amphipodial, mixed

Bashania, Gelidocalamus, Indocalamus, Monstruocalamus, Pseudosasa, Qiongzhuea, Sasa, Shibataea, Sinobambusa


Based on the uses or function, bamboo stands in China can be divided into 5 types.

Bamboo timber stands. Pure bamboo stands cultivated for bamboo culms; 10 million tons/year of culms can be harvested. Among them, half of each will be used by farmers and the rest for commercial purposes respectively. Because of different management, such stands can be divided into 3 kinds (Table 3).

a) Stands of intensive management. They occupy 15% of the total stands, productivity of which is around 7-10 t/ha/yr and the maximum in the best site can be 35 t/ ha/yr.

b) Stands with mid-level management. About 25% of the total, the productivity of which is 3.5-6.9 t/ha/yr.

c) Stands of poor management. It is 60% of the total and usually over harvested, productivity is around 1.5 t/ha/yr.

Table 3. Dynamics of Bamboo stand management

Management level

Year

1950
%

1965
%

1975
%

1985
%

1993
%

Intensive

1

3

5

8

15

Middle

2

25

27

25

25

Poor

97

72

68

67

60


Bamboo shoot stands: These are intensively managed for producing edible shoots and there are more than 50 species but mostly Phyllostachys edulis, Ph. praecox, Ph. vivax, Ph. iridescens, Dendrocalamus latiflorus, D. oldhamii, D. giganteus, D. beecheynus var. pubescens etc. which are cultivated. The area of bamboo shoot stand is above 100 000 ha, productivity is around 10-20 t/ha/yr with the maximum of 30-35 t/ha/yr. Another 3 million ha stands can produce both shoots and culms. Because of the environmental stress and other reasons during the growth period, about 45-60% shoots will die. If they are also harvested before their death, the shoots can be used as vegetable or for processing into other edible products. The total shoot yield is around 1 million t/yr in China.

Bamboo pulp stands: The species for bamboo pulp stands are: Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Sinocalamus and Chimonobambusa species. The history of paper-making with bamboo pulp in China dates back to over 1700 years. Traditionally, young culms are used as raw materials, the harvest of which seriously damage the stands. Now more than 20 paper mills have been established in the country which take 3 to 5-year-old culms as raw materials, and their annual consumption is about 1 million tons. The productivity of pulp stands varies from 1-5 t/ha/yr depending on the area and management level.

Bamboo stands for ornamental purposes: Such type of stands are grown in small areas usually surrounding the houses, buildings or planted in the gardens and parks, and the species adopted are usually with coloured or specially shaped culms and leaves, with beautiful canopy i.e. they have certain ornamental values for beautifying the living environment. There are more than 20 species used. Bamboo parks and bamboo botanic gardens are located in various places in China.

Bamboo stands for soil and water conservation: These forests are distributed in the remote high mountainous regions and plantations developed near Yangtze River, banks of lakes, and sea shore with an area of 3 million ha. These plantations not only conserve soil and water also provide a fine living environment for wildlife, of which the most famous animal is the panda. The famous examples of plantations for flood prevention and strong wind protection are those on Jiulongjiang river bank of Fujian province and on Dayingjiang river bank of Yunnan province.

Among the types mentioned above, some of them are of high economic value, in which the total product value of produced culms and shoots per year is 5.9 billion Chinese Yuan1. It means that 3% of the total forest area has produced 18.33% of the total value of forest products of China.

1 US$ = 8.1 Chinese Yuan
Bamboo civilization in Asia

Bamboo is deeply rooted in Asia's culture and civilization. Ancient Chinese started to use bamboos 7000 years ago, and many Chinese writings are found from the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shell of the Shang Dynasty (10th-11th century B.C.). Chinese history and culture have been recorded on bamboo slips for almost 800 years and the Chinese writings characterized by pictographs and various details, could be determined. Since then the writing brush and paper are also made from bamboo in the Ching and Jin Dynasties respectively. A distinct Chinese calligraphy art is well developed, almost world famous. Later, bamboo painting, carving, woven handicrafts were produced, which further developed Chinese 'Bamboo culture'.

The same situation occurs in Japan and Thailand. The Japanese people also have used many bamboos in their handicrafts, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and gardens. The Thais also have used bamboos for making umbrellas, carvings, handicrafts, food production, medicine etc. They even enact many dances and sing songs related to bamboo.

Bamboo processing and utilization

Timber (culm) processing: Understanding physico-mechanical properties of culms is the first step for processing and utilization. Supported by IDRC, the researchers from CAF tested 4 monopodial and 3 sympodial species. It was found that the maturity of the big size monopodial bamboo, Ph. pubescens, needs longer time (6 years) compared with smaller sized ones and other sympodial bamboos (2 years). All parameters tested and values of dry samples, harvested during dormant period were higher than those of the wet sample values for different species (Table 4).

Table 4. Physico-mechanical properties of seven bamboo species

Species

Timber type

Compression strength parallel to grain

Bending strength

Modulus of elasticity

Shearing strength parallel to grain

Tensile strength parallel to grain

Spilt

Round

Radial

Chord

Ph. pubescens

Wet

58.4

58.8

129.1

139.2

10.5

13.9

196.0

Dry

78.7

69.9

162.3

162.4

12.5

18.6

202.9

Ph. iridescens

Wet

56.0

60.3

124.2

150.1

11.4

13.2

207.6

Dry

86.9

84.9

169.8

200.1

14.2

17.1

248.0

Ph. glauca

Wet

69.8

61.9

135.8

163.1

13.2

12.8

200.7

Dry

71.7

78.2

136.4

186.9

16.5

15.7

271.4

Ph. bambusoides

Wet

57.2

48.1

107.9

146.1

11.2

13.5

159.5

Dry

62.4

68.5

130.7

155.8

13.2

17.1

224.3

B. pervariabilis

Wet

42.4

41.8

92.9

108.1

9.2

7.2

163.1

Dry

78.7

77.1

157.2

170.9

17.6

13.6

269.8

B. textilis

Wet

44.8

45.1

98.0

116.6

9.2

7.7

152.7

Dry

83.3

83.7

173.7

173.2

18.5

13.3

252.3

B. chungii

Wet

46.0

48.4

98.8

119.0

9.6

9.0

177.3

Dry

79.8

83.2

172.0

182.2

18.2

15.3

282.8


Because of good understanding of culm's physico-mechanical properties plenty of culm products have been produced including bamboo chopsticks, mats etc. Besides, the traditional utilization of bamboos in fishing, aquaculture and construction, especially in recent years, is very high. There is great demand for bamboo boards both in China and worldwide. There are 5 kinds of bamboo boards, used in construction industries a) bamboo particle board; b) bamboo fibre board; c) bamboo plyboard; d) bamboo floor; and e) bamboo decorating board.

There are around 224 factories in China that produce the above mentioned boards, which are mainly located in Hunan, Zhejiang, Sichuan, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces with an output of 225 000 m3 boards and a consumption of 35-50 million bamboo culms (Table 5). The culm utilization rate is 20-30% and the product values based on the price of 1994 is 680-850 million Chinese Yuan with the net profit of 8-12%. It has also provided employment to 23 000-30 000 people. Besides, China as a country lacks timber. While utilizing 1 m3 of bamboo plyboard, it would save 2.8 m3 of timber.

Table 5. Bamboo plyboard production and economic value

Type of board

Annual output m3/yr

Enterprise

Price Yuan/m3

Production value million Yuan

Waving plyboard

90 000

90

2 800

252

Curtain waving plyboard

40 000

30

2 800

112

Plyboard

30 000

24

4 000

120

Multiple-layer plyboard

25 000

20

2 800

70

Particle board

15 000

20

1 200

37

Floor

20 000

30

3 700

74

Mould pressing board

5 000

10

-

-

Total

225 000

224

-

665


Edible bamboo shoot processing: There are 30 bamboo species, both monopodial and sympodial, usually cultivated for shoot products. Data analysis of 27 species compared with 11 vegetables have indicated that 100 g of bamboo shoots contain protein 2.65 g, which is the second highest one in the 12 analyzed vegetables; lipid 0.49 g, the highest one; fibre 0.58 g, located in the middle; total sugar 2.50 g. Besides, bamboo shoots contain 17 amino acids, higher P and lower Fe and Ca. Bamboo shoots are processed into various foods such as the salted shoots, dry shoots, sour shoots and canned shoots etc.

Canned shoots are the most important products for both local and international markets. Presently, there are about 700 factories that produce canned shoots, mainly distributed in Zhejiang (200), Fujian (100) and Jiangxi (100) provinces, the total annual output is 250 000 tons with production value of 875 million Chinese Yuan.

Bamboo pulp: Bamboo culm contains high fibre (40-60%), the length of which is 1.5-2.5 mm (maximum 5 mm) and the quality is between wood and grass. But the ratio between length and width of bamboo fibre is the highest among the three raw materials. So bamboo is the fine material for paper making. Generally, one ton pulp will consume four tons of bamboo culms.

Chinese scientists have tested more than 100 species of bamboo and compared the fibre quality, lignin etc. The tested species have been divided into four groups according to the qualities of paper produced, Group I - highest quality.

Group I:

Bambusa rigida, Schizostachyum pseudolima, Sch. funghomii, Cephalostachyum fuchsianum, Neosinocalamus affinis, Bambusa membranaceus, B. chungii, Dendrocalamopsis oldhami, Dendrocalamus strictus, Phyllostachys viridis, Ph. pubescens etc.

Group II:

Dendrocalamus minor, D. giganteus, Bambusa pervariabilis, Phyllostachys heteroclada, P. nuda, Ph. glauca, Chimonobambusa quadrangularis, Qiongzhuea fumidinoda, etc.

Group III:

Dendrocalamus latiflorus, Chimonobambusa marmorea, Bambusa textilis, Fargesia spp., Yushania niitakayamensis etc.

Group IV:

Bambusa multiplex, B. distegia, Shibataea kumasaca, Pseudosasa japonica, Ps. amabilis, Pleioblastus amarus etc.


There are about 740 workshops in China which have employed around 30 000 people and their annual output is 192 800 tons of paper with production value of 435 million Chinese Yuan. These factories are mainly distributed in Sichuan province (40-50%) Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian, Hunan etc. Modern paper mills are about 100 which produce 200 000 tons of bamboo paper with an annual production value of 280 million Chinese Yuan. Both the workshops and mills consume around 1.6 million tons of bamboo culms, about 15% of the total culm output. China is short of paper by around 1.5 million tons, which is imported from abroad. This means that there is great market for bamboo pulp in China.

Bamboo daily articles and weaving arts: These products can be several hundreds in China. Most of them are produced by small factories and family workshops. There are only a few big ones located in Zhejiang, Sichuan, Jiangxi and Guangxi provinces. These enterprises offer employment and working opportunities both in the city and countryside. About 144 million US dollars is earned every year from export of finished products.


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