How soon income?
After I Plant Bamboo, When will I get Income?
Sell Shoots beginning five years after planting
At Washington State University in its Puyallup location, Farmer Wade Bennett of Rock Ridge Orchards began
harvesting shoots five years after planting in 2006. The groves included seven varieties of Phyllostachys:
vivax, aurea, aureosulcata, vivax, nigra, rubromarginata, and nuda. Rock Ridge Farm sells its shoots at
Farmers’ markets all over the Seattle area and at its Farm Store.
The advantage to him of selling bamboo shoots is that they shoot when other crops are not ready. When he sells
his shoots, his stand has little else to sell: rhubarb, vinegar and wine, (made from his summer fruit from the
year before). Without the bamboo shoots, he would have little in his early spring farm stand.
Wade Bennett sells his shoots for $3 a pound. Large shoots over 3 pounds each are sold for $5 a pound.
I expect that a giant bamboo like moso will have its the initial harvest in year six rather than year five. My
own test plot of moso will be five years old in 2019.
As the above graphs show in years 2006 and 2007, yield increases as
the grove matures. However weather can interrupt the increase in yield. In 2008 spring was cold; shooting was
delayed and yield lessened. The exception is yellow groove (aureosulcata) which is more cold hardy than the
other bamboos. Generally, if it is colder than normal at the time of shooting, shooting is delayed and yield is
reduced, sometimes dramatically.
In Georgia in 2016, I know of no established buyer for bamboo shoots. Part of your job as bamboo farmer is to
find and develop a buyer and buyers. I expect that as more people raise bamboo, there will be enough volume
that produce buyers will purchase boxes of bamboo shoots. There will be an established market for bamboo
One would expect that Asian grocery markets would buy your shoots. They might. However, they are apt to say
that they already have shoots to sell. They import precooked shoots wrapped in plastic or floating in water in
a can. To them they already have “fresh bamboo shoots”.
I have sold shoots to a Chinese American friend who is a chef. She will buy my shoots and distribute them to
In 2014 I emailed many high end restaurants in Atlanta that promote their use of fresh local produce. I asked
if they would like to experiment with a new vegetable? I told them, with many supportive photos, that I will be
harvesting bamboo shoots in March and April of 2015. Most did not reply. I heard back from one and delivered
shoots for free for them to experiment with. They made pickles and gave me the recipe. I am grateful for this
recipe. I use it a lot. They did not, however, buy shoots from me and add bamboo to their menu.
In fall of 2015 I emailed all the restaurants listed in "Atlanta Magazine" that featured fresh local produce. I
heard back from three chefs. I delivered shoots to one restaurant in Macon. It was a thrill to me to meet them
and show them how to cut the shoots. They tasted the bamboo pickles and pronounced them good. They will be
developing recipes with the ten pounds of shoots that I gave them. The other two restaurants are in Atlanta. I
will be delivering to them shortly.
Selling Plants Beginning in Year Two
Bamboo plants spread rapidly when cared for with mulch, fertilizer and irrigation. It makes sense if you have
the time, to sell starts to other farmers from your spreading plants. I happily gave some of mine away to
friends who wanted them. But selling plants, moves you in the direction of being a nursery, not a farm that
sells food and wood.
Of course too much digging and selling will leave holes in the ground. Dig too many plants and your grove will
mature more slowly.
The photo shows a good sized clump of black bamboo. The bamboo is about to be
bundled and readied to drive to its new home in Illinois.
Selling Poles Commences at year Eight or Nine
Most people who contact me about growing bamboo, are interested in the poles, i.e., the wood. They assume the
way to make money with bamboo is to sell poles to make flooring and plywood - or cloth.
Resource Fiber is planning to plant 100s of acres of moso bamboo in the Black Belt region of Alabama. They will
build a mill to use this bamboo. This huge project requires years of planting and growing bamboo. Then they build
the mill to use the bamboo. They are not buying bamboo poles from farmers outside their system.
To my knowledge, there is no lumber mill that will buy bamboo poles from Georgia farms.
You will not get sellable poles as quickly as you will get sellable shoots. Let’s assume that in year five, the
bamboo sends up shoots that turn into poles that are large enough to sell and whose branches are high enough on the
pole that the pole is worth harvesting. (On young plantings sending up small poles, the branches will be near the
ground making the pole worthless except as mulch.)
But! you can not harvest poles until they are two or more years old because they need several years to
lignify/harden into wood. The earliest that you can harvest poles for sale as wood will be Year Seven and up.
Washington State University did not sell poles. They removed excess poles in order to keep the groves open and
easy to harvest for shoots. Mostly volunteers thinned the groves. The poles were piled alongside the research
plots. Later, staff gathered the poles and shredded them. They found that shredded bamboo poles worked great in
their compost piles. Most of their other material was green as in grass clippings and vegetables. The bamboo mulch
aerated the compost pile and added the woody material needed for good compost.
When WSU harvested its research plots in 2006 (Year Five), only the first row of seven plots had been thinned.
WSU found no difference in yield between the thinned and unthinned plots. However, those thinning could have been
fed to livestock. Bamboo is especially valuable to livestock because it is green and lush in winter when pasture
grasses are dormant. I can’t put a dollar value on this.
Some bamboo farmers run chickens in the bamboo groves. The birds weed the ground, aerate the soil and fertilize
with their droppings. As long as the birds are off the grounds three months before expected harvest there is no
contamination of the shoots. Running chickens is a good way to increase the value of your groves.
In my research farm, I will thin the groves in Year Four, so as to easily see harvestable shoots in Year Five. I
plan to sell shoots in Year Five.
Bottom line: Bamboo will not produce income for you until year
Each Year, the moso planting gets larger.
In the above photo, the short dark mounds of bamboo are what grew the first year, 2015. The new taller shoots are
growing in year 2016. These plants were planted in April 2014. Most in the rows were killed by frost in winter of
2014 and 2015.
The above photo, shows moso after three years in the ground.
This moso is sprouting in year five from planting.
The shoots in year five are substantial.