Bamboo Farming USA


I have harvested shoots from these nine groves for four years from 2011 to 2014. Each year I have removed excess canes, fertilized with a lawn fertilizer and added straw as mulch. Four groves are in Fort Valley, Georgia USA, and five are in Bonaire. The locations are half an hour drive apart.

The graph is arranged in order of shooting.

Praecox  Phyllostachys praecox  Early Bamboo
Praecox is my earliest shooting bamboo. Due to its proximity down slope from Georgia Bamboo’s nursery in Fort Valley, one third of the research plot was saturated with water and did not produce at all. Rhizomes rotted. February 2, 2013, I diverted the run-off water with a ditch. This would have no effect on the harvest of 2013 but should help with rhizome spread in summer of 2013 and therefore increase harvest for 2014.

The advantage to an early shooting bamboo is that you can sell shoots sooner than with later varieties. 2013 was a bad year for all bamboos because of an unusual cold snap in February. In January 2013 temperatures shot up into the 70’s. Praecox put up numerous shoots on its sunny edge. Then in February and March night time temps dropped into the 20’s. The early shoots froze. Shoot yield for praecox of 2013 was half that of 2011 and 2012. In 2014 yield was greater than 2011 and 2012.

In 2013 praecox’s largest pole was 3 inches. In 2014, the largest pole was 3.25. I believe that with care, a praecox grove would have straight poles averaging three inches.

Moso  Phyllostachys edulis Moso
Moso shoots soon after praecox. For most people this is the most exciting bamboo of the temperate giant bamboos. In 2011, moso produced fewer shoots than any other bamboo. I decided to thin its poles in summer of 2011. I took out 9 poles. The next year production in creased 786 percent! In 2013 the cold snap knocked it back along with all the other bamboos except Robert Young in Fort Valley. I will explain that interesting situation when I get to Robert Young. I did some more careful thinning in 2013. We had ample rain in 3013. Moso is known to like ample summer moisture. In 2014 moso doubled its shoot production of 2012. It was astonishing. It was more than twice the production of the two next best bamboos.

Moso’s largest new cane was 4.75 inches and largest old cane was 4.25. I think that a well maintained moso grove will be able to have an average pole size of 4 inches with some attaining 6 inches.

Was moso’s amazing increase in productivity because of rain the previous year? Or judicious thinning of canes? Or spreading of llama poop and lawn fertilizer in 2013? Or straw each year? Or is moso an alternate year producer? Does a weed free environment increase productivity?

In 2010, no thinning had been done. The grove was static. In 2011, we thinned. Productivity shot up. I theorize that we stimulated the moso with the thinning. The cold snap in 2013 was enough to kill back healthy groves of black bamboo. Moso is an early shooter and was affected by the cold as were all bamboos (except R. Young Fort Valley). Reports from bamboo growers in the South say that 2014 was a good year for moso everywhere. Why?

Henon (Fort Valley)  Phyllostachys nigra ‘henon'
Henon is a vigorous timber bamboo. It is not vigorous in its location in Fort Valley. It produced few shoots in 2011 and 2012 and almost none in the cold of 2012 and in 2014. This bamboo is located on a shaded slope. Soil is extra wet from runoff from the nursery. It is 2 to 4 degrees colder than surrounding soils during shooting season. Henon and probably all timber bamboos shoot at a certain time of year. If the soil is too cold at shooting time, the number of shoots is significantly reduced. The bamboo does not catch up later when the soil finally warms up.

This is a bamboo that produces 3 and 4 inch high quality poles when it is healthy. In this cold soil location, the largest cane old and new is 2.5 inches.

Henon (Bonaire) Phyllostachys nigra ‘henon'
This henon has warmer soil that the research plot in Fort Valley. It out-produces Fort Valley each year. Its pattern is similar to five out of nine of the research plot. In 2012 after thinning in 2011, shoot harvest increased. Harvest tumbled in cold spring 2013. In 2014 yield was less than in the first two years.

Again this henon is atypical of henon. It dies back each year! Dead tops on new and older canes. Canes tipping over. I now think that the problem is that rain water rushes down the Bonaire hill and washes over the research grove. I think that in order to increase yield and make this a healthy grove that I need to divert the waters that flood through this grove.

Largest canes for new and old canes is 3 inches.

Vivax aureocaulis   Vivax aureocaulis
I am very disappointed with this grove. The best year was the first year. With my care I would have hoped that the best year would have been 2014 or at least 2012.  At least the largest new cane at 3.75 inches is larger than last year’s largest cane at 3.5 inches.

The species vivax is green kinked. Vivax aureocaulis is yellow skinned. Yellow skinned bamboos usually are less vigorous than green ones. This bamboo tends to throw up green canes at the outside of its spread. I cut them down to preserve the integrity of aureocaulis. However, they do seem to be bigger and healthier.

Houzeau  Phyllostachys viridis ‘Houzeau’
I thinned Houzeau in 2011 and it increased production by 50% in 2012. With this response, it became one of my favorite bamboos. 2013 was a quarter of 2012 due to the cold. What disappointed me was the lack of bounce-back in 2014. Five of the 9 bamboos did not bounce back in 2014. Even praecox’s increase in 2014 was not much over 2011 and 2012.

Houzeau’s largest new cane was 3.25 inches and its largest old cane was 3 inches. I think that with this and the other groves with new canes larger than old canes that 2015 will be a year of increase in yield.

Robert Young (Fort Valley) Phyllostachys viridis ‘Robert Young'
This may be one of the most interesting research plots. When I began my research in Georgia, I strode confidently into this grove and took out every cane with a dead top. There were lots. I took out leaners and thin canes. I ended my thinning by taking out canes that were too close to one another. There was too much sunlight hitting the ground in the grove. Soon I saw that I had taken out too many canes. Unlike the Fort Valley henon which has cold and shady soil, the Fort Valley Robert Young is in a full sun all day long location that is on level ground. It bakes. In 2012 when I was in Fort Valley thinning groves or fertilizing or spreading hay, i ran a sprinkler in the Robert Young.

In 2013 when ALL other bamboos reduced their shoot production from the cold snap, Fort Valley Robert Young more than doubled its production! And in 2014 after a rainy summer in 2013, production rose even more.

Because this is a yellow skinned bamboo, it is not (in my experience) a productive bamboo. However the lessons that it gives are important.
1. Plant bamboo where the soil warms early.
2. Irrigate during hot summers. A straw mulch helps maintain even moisture through summer.
3. Maintain dappled shade on the grove floor.

Robert Young (Bonaire)  Phyllostachys viridis ‘Robert Young’
They love to say “Watch out for bamboo. It will take over your yard.” My Robert Young in Bonaire continues to die back. This August I looked at the tops of the canes and many were dead. Others have leaves that are curling and look like they will die.

438 pounds per acre in 2011; 250 pounds in 2012; 183 pounds in 2013. I did not even bother to harvest in 2014. Largest new cane 2.25 inches; largest old cane 2.75 inches. Seven new canes even though I did not harvest a single shoot this year.

Why! Why is this bamboo dying or at least getting weaker. It does get water streaking over it from the near by road during rainstorms. Once I found a dead cat washed into the grove. Too much water? At one point I thought that I had over thinned since I took out all canes with dead tops. Lots of canes with dead tops. This year I left the dead canes.

Japanese timber Phyllostachys bambusoides
The thinning, fertilizing and mulching that i did in 2011 seemed to be successful in 2012. Japanese timber hates the cold and its production plummeted from 746 pounds per acre to 33 in 2013.



1. Some bamboos are worth planting for shoots and some are not.
2. Plant bamboo where the soil warms early.
3. Irrigate during hot summers.
4.  A straw mulch applied after shooting helps maintain even moisture through summer and keeps down weeds. By spring, it is mostly gone, so soil can warm up naturally.
5. Thin the grove to make harvest easy and to increase production. Thin after new shoots begin to open leaves.
6.  Maintain dappled shade on the grove floor. Do not over thin.

What is a realistic pounds per acre yield?
I think that a bamboo grove should produce at least two tons per acre. None of my bamboos has done that. (Moso produced 3,864 pounds in 2014.)