Bamboo is an amazing resource with tremendous promise. But in order for it to remain competitive in the global marketplace, we need to continue supporting bamboo research. Sure, bamboo has been around for a zillion years. (OK, maybe only 40,000 or so.) But in this quickly changing world, new products, new problems and new solutions seem to appear almost daily.

With climate issues worsening and the interest in bamboo continuing to rise, there’s a growing need for research and data regarding bamboo’s ecological benefits and industrial applications. Some of the most active organizations working to study and promote bamboo around the world include the American Bamboo Society and the World Bamboo Organization. The Ned Jaquith Foundation may be the most dedicated organization in America to sponsor bamboo research at this time.

UPDATE 2022: Bambu Batu and Bamboo Vision have just launched Bamboo Ark, an open-source online platform to share and promote bamboo research around the globe.

The need for research

In the last few decades, bamboo has demonstrated some enormous potential to be a part of the solution to problems like global warming, deforestation and rural poverty in parts of the developing world. Here at the Bambu Batu blog, we’ve already written many articles about the benefits of bamboo and how planting bamboo can improve the ecology.

We know about dozens and dozens of uses for bamboo, and countless advantages for using bamboo as an alternative to precious hardwoods and toxic plastics. With ongoing research into the area of bamboo cultivation and production, it’s safe to assume that we can find even more applications. More importantly, we can develop still better methods and strategies for growing and processing this miraculous grass.

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Who is conducting bamboo research?

The American Bamboo Society (ABS), established in California in 1979, has over 500 members and operates throughout the country to advance the use and cultivation of bamboo. Among other things, the ABS publishes a quarterly magazine that reports on current activities and events in the world of bamboo.

Committed to promoting the propagation of bamboo, the ABS works to preserve and increase the number of bamboo species growing in this country. They are also a valuable resource for those looking to identify a variety of bamboo. In 2007, for example, the ABS was instrumental in recognizing a new species of North American bamboo. Arundinaria appalachiana, formerly known simply as hill cane, grows indigenously in the hills of North Carolina and other parts of the Deep South.

The ABS also works in coordination with the World Bamboo Organization (WBO), a US-based non-profit that operates around the globe. The WBO organizes an international bamboo conference every few years, bringing together an incredible assembly of bamboo pioneers and enthusiasts.

Working with bamboo practitioners from around the world, the WBO has been responsible for connecting a great number of innovative individuals. Many of these connections have led to some very productive collaborations, most notably on bamboo construction projects in Asia and Latin America. They also sponsor World Bamboo Day, which takes place every year on September 18.

What is the Ned Jaquith Foundation?

To commemorate the life of one especially devoted bamboo enthusiast, members of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the American Bamboo Society recently came together to establish this non-profit organization. The Ned Jaquith Foundation’s sole purpose is to support bamboo research, as they have been doing since 2014. The foundation focusses on raising money for small but ambitious projects in the field of bamboo, sharing many of the same goals as the ABS.

Ned Jaquith was a well-respected gardener and mentor in the international community. So great was his reputation, that there is even a species of bamboo named after him. Chusquea nedjaquithii is native to the mountainous region around Oaxaca, Mexico. Chusquea is the most diverse genus of woody bamboos in Mexico, now numbering 20 species in that country, and about 174 species worldwide.

Each year the NJF selects a handful of bamboo projects and sponsors them with a private research grant. The funding goes toward a variety of research areas, including Art Research, Botanical Identification, Collection, Education, Environmental Issues, Genetic Preservation, Habitat Restoration, Propagation Techniques, and Utilization.

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What sort of research is the Ned Jaquith Foundation funding?

In 2018/19, the foundation had three lucky recipients. The first project is taking place in Ethiopia, in partnership with Debre Birhan University and Engineers without Borders. Here they will use a grant of $3,000 to plant Oldeiana alpina around the riverbeds of the Amhara Region. This project takes advantage of bamboo both to protect the local ecology, by preventing erosion, and to produce a useful building material.

They have also funded a project in South America called “Narrowing the knowledge gap on bamboo diversity in the New World: Collection and habilitation of a bamboo herbarium in Peru”. The goal here is to gather a complete collection of local bamboo varieties and create a bamboo herbarium at Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina. This project received about $3,700.

Another project in Peru is called “Children’s Bamboo Rainforest”. The NJF contributed $3,000 to this program which aims to educate school children about the wonders and benefits of bamboo, and its special role in the Amazon rainforest habitat. In recent years, this region of Southeast Peru has been suffering from the consequences of deforestation and illegal mining.

One more project to receive a grant from the NJF is a translation, from English to Spanish, of a book entitled “Sustainable Bamboo Development” by Zhu Zhaohua and Jim Wei. The book covers more than 40 cases of bamboo development from 22 bamboo-producing countries, and takes a close look at where they have succeeded and where they’ve failed. By sharing and analyzing the stories of international bamboo ventures, the book conveys a clear sense of bamboo’s tremendous potential. Readers can also learn from the experiences of the global bamboo community to increase their own chances of success.

How can you support bamboo research?

The American Bamboo Society and the Ned Jaquith Foundation are both non-profit organizations. Through the tax-deductible donations of the general public, these groups are able to continue educating and funding new research. It’s as easy as clicking the donate button on their respective websites.

Real bamboo enthusiasts should also consider a membership in the ABS. Their quarterly magazine is filled with juicy articles, and the society offers priceless opportunities for networking with other like-minded Bambuseros. Bambu Batu first became a member in 2007.

You can also support the industry by choosing to purchase more bamboo products. As the demand for bamboo textiles and building material grows, so does the incentive to increase the supply.

Looking to launch a bamboo project of your own? Contact us for a consultation on how and where to get started.

Learn more

Check out these related articles to learn more about the exciting field of bamboo cultivation and research.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ned Jaquith Foundation