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Farmers want help to combat spread of bamboo

Published:Tuesday | June 14, 2016 | 6:00 AM
This section of a mountain range in Hanover is completely taken over by the invasive bamboo plant.

With bamboo plants rapidly taking over the hillsides in several central Hanover communities, veteran farmers in the parish are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to partner with local farming organisations to curtail the invasion of what is the world's fastest-growing plant.

According to Collin Johnson, a Mount Peace based farmer, the hillsides in his community, as well in Barbican, Claremont, Jericho, Chambers Pen, Clifton, Askenish, Maryland, Cascade and the lower sections of the Dolphin Head mountain range, is severely affected by the fast-spreading bamboo plant.

Johnson said the rise of the bamboo has even affected the once-high rainfall levels in the area, as trees which evoked evapo-transpiration, have been demolished by the plants, which have spiralled out of control since farmers began to use them for yam sticks, decades ago.

"The bamboo sheds its leaves, so it is not like the traditional plants that add moisture or send hydrogen and oxygen to the atmosphere to produce rain," said Johnson. "It has that fibrous root network that covers the top soil and it goes on forever. It makes the land thirsty because it sucks up a lot of water and also prohibits the growth of other plants. The canopy it provides also prevents sufficient sunlight for other plants to grow."

Ray Kerr, president of the Clifton-based Veteran Farmers Alliance, supports Johnson's assertion. He said while bamboo has some benefits, the destruction it causes outweighs its use, as its proliferation is accompanied by a myriad of woes.

"Bamboo is causing one-time arable land to be partially non-productive right now, because when bamboo takes over the land, it binds the soil," stated Kerr. "It has a good use as it prevents soil erosion, but at the same time, if you as a farmer want to work the land that the bamboo invaded, the amount of labour you have to utilise to bring it back to usable purpose, makes it is inefficient."

 

FIREFIGHTER'S NIGHTMARE

 

If you use fertiliser, the roots of the bamboo will suck out all the nutrients and cause the crops to be a failure," continued Kerr. "Because its root system is very, very massive it covers a large area and one of the main concerns is that, during the dry season, it is a fire hazard. When it sheds, the dry leaves create fire hazards if there is a little spark. Because it is so flammable, dead bamboos cause fires to last for days. It is a firefighter's nightmare."

Because the growth of the bamboo has such serious consequences for wildlife and the apiculture industry in Hanover, Kerr wants the Forestry Department and its parent body, the Ministry of Agriculture intervenes immediately

"The Forestry Department could introduce some lumber trees to plant on some of those slopes, where the bamboo has encroached ... viable lumber trees like cedar, mahogany and trees like Moringa, which would flower and provide a food source," Kerr suggested. "Because of the lack of sunlight caused by the bamboo, trees don't blossom as they ought to."

"The Agriculture Ministry needs to have a land reclamation programme, where arable lands that used to have farms on them, which bamboo invaded, those farmers are assisted with some subsidies to claim back the land," said Kerr. ".... and encourage the cultivation of productive plants such as turmeric, cocoa, and hardy trees like pimento, which are a good source of food for the birds and the bees and so they would have more food."

"In terms of animal habitats, birds always like closed broad-leaf forests to make their nests to avoid predators, but the bamboo is unsuitable," continued Kerr. "It affects bee keeping and pollination, because the bees do not have much to eat because they don't go further than a five mile radius."