Bamboo Farm
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Nexus - Bamboo Farm
Bamboo Farm
In 1989 Durnford Dart or "Mr Bamboo" as he is affectionately known established Australia's first commercial bamboo farm on the Sunshine Coast . He is generally acknowledged as Australia's bamboo growing expert and is also recognised in the greater Asian bamboo industry. Today his bamboo farm at the Belli Bamboo Parkland is one of the best resources for bamboo and its associated products.
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DURNFORD DART: Bamboo is literally the world's tallest and largest grass. A mature plant can grow from anywhere from 100 millimetres up to 36 metres tall, from very small matchstick thickness right up to around about 250 millimetres and even 300 millimetres thick in the equatorial tropics.

When the new shoots come up, they'll grow from scratch right up to full height in anywhere between 5 to 10 weeks. Now, they grow at a really rapid rate. But once they get to that height, they never get any thicker or any higher. If you've got a clumping species of bamboo, you might get 20 to 80 new shoots out of one clump each year.

We usually harvest around about 75% of those new shoots as a vegetable crop. Usually leave around about 5 to 10 new sticks each year on a clump. And they stay there for the next five years and then they're harvested for the timber poles. You're getting two crops out of the one stand. You've got your edible shoots and your timber poles. We've got bamboo plants here or bamboo shoots that will literally grow a metre a day. They go up at a pretty rapid rate.

They're a delicacy, and some species are more popular than others and also there's different tastes in them and there's different ethnic preferences. We find the Vietnamese prefer a slightly bitter shoot. The Japanese love moso. It's a spicy shoot, and that's a really popular one.

There's roughly 1,500 species that we know of, but they're always finding new ones. And it's divided into two types. There's the running ones that everybody in the urban areas know that goes from one neighbour's place to the other if you put the wrong plant in. And there's the clumping species. They stay in a nice, tidy clump. This is what we call Dendrocalamus asper. It's one of the large clumping bamboos. Brilliant structural bamboo. And it was supporting the Thai shoot industry for many years until it flowered in the early '90s. The whole lot flowered and the whole lot died.

This is a shoot that came up around about a year ago. And this will be harvested in three years time. So we'll leave it there for four years before we harvest it. When they're growing, they're about 85% water. Then the water goes to starch and sugars and then, at the later stage, there's a substance called parenchyma that fills the vascular bundles of fibre and that gives the bamboo its tensile strength. So you need to leave it there for at least three to five years to get the tensile strength into the pole before you harvest it.

We're on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, due west of Noosa, about 35 kilometres off the coast. I started off in 1989. I was down in Sydney, living in Sydney, up until that time. I sold my business down there, came up here to live and I've been here ever since. The rainfall here is probably around about... ..averages 1,300 millimetres. Usually we've got a wet season - January, February, March. But around about three metres a year is the best rainfall you can get for the bamboo plants. Unfortunately, we don't get that here. But you can supplement that with effluent. Effluent and bamboo just go together.

I've learnt a lot at my own expense. And what it is, I've had the freedom to travel around, do what I want and get the information that I need, and this has really helped. And I have been doing workshops here in the past. And I finished up publishing a book on the subject. It's for growing bamboo under Australian conditions.

Now, this has led to recognition worldwide, both in Asia and in America. And I get very enthusiastic reception over there. I usually go up at least twice a year into China, just to see what new developments are happening up there. There's a lot happening with the processed bamboo, particularly in the floorboards and associated products. So I like to keep up-to-date on that. You've only got to walk around Asian countries, particularly Indonesia, Hong Kong and China, and look and look down and look up and wherever you see, there's bamboo. It might be a 50-storey skyscraper with bamboo scaffolding, it's bamboo furniture, bamboo handicrafts, timber blinds.

It just goes on and on and on, you know, what you can utilise the bamboo for. I see it as the most under-utilised product in the Western world. It's a plant that can be utilised for so many different applications. It's just a matter of everybody waking up and utilising the resource that it produces.
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