"King Cotton" – For generations that slogan personified the Southeastern United States reliance on cotton. Well, the "King is Dead; Long Live the King" – Bamboo.
King Cotton was deposited years ago by inexpensive cotton imported from Africa and Asia. These cheap imports drove most cotton farmers out of the business. Even mega farms find it hard to compete with cotton imports.
America's cotton industry faces a dismal future. That was why a consortium of botanists, growers and Southern politicians have begun to investigate the possibilities of replacing cotton with bamboo in Southern Mississippi Delta states.
It may seem that the bamboo industry in America is just in its infancy; however, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced bamboo as a farm crop around 1919. American farmers and the general public remained unaware of bamboo's potential, so Richard Haubrich formed the American Bamboo Society to promote bamboo as a cash crop.
In the Northwest bamboo growing began as a hobby for people who had received the plant or purchased bamboo for decorative purposes. Folks planted bamboo in yards, woods, where their fancies led them. With over thirteen hundred species of bamboo, many types of bamboo did more then survive – they thrived.
Currently Washington State University, under Dr. Craig Cogger, is conducting research on various strains of bamboo. These studies could have a significant impact on bamboo's vitality (can it live) in the South. According to Gib Cooper of Tradewinds Bamboo Nursery, growers will continue to meet with Dr. Cogger and others to determine the viability of different bamboos in differentiating climates.
One type of bamboo that growers and scientists see as a candidate for the South is the moso bamboo. This plant can be used in buildings; it's as strong as steel. Jackie Heinricher, owner of Boo-Shoot garden, has devised a method to clone mature culms of Moso grass.
Dr. Brian Baldwin, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at Mississippi State University, says mild, wet winters have helped bamboo species closely related to Moso do "exceptionally well here." He considers the region viable for large-scale production.
The Eco friendly aspect should not eclipse bamboo's value as a product. From soup, to table, to homes, bamboo is ripe for the picking.
"King Cotton is Dead": "Long Live Bamboo."