Concerns addressed about invasive plant

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

For several reasons, the proposed use of bamboo as a crop in Marengo County and the surrounding area has triggered many concerns. Some felt the plant could cause problems stemming from containment. Others feared its effect on the booming hunting industry.

At Thursday’s meeting officials from West Wind Technology addressed some of these concerns.

Many were uncomfortable with the commitment. Farmers are being asked to participate in a 15-year program, which is an enormous demand on farmland.

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John E. Wood, a representative of West Wind assured farmers if they wanted out after the 15-year period they were welcome to break free.

“If after 15 years you did decide not to grow it we would have funs set aside to control and remove it,” Wood said. “We could restore the land similar to its original position. We can’t guarantee its original condition, but the arundo would be gone.”

All over the Black Belt most landowners have battled bamboo at some time. Because the roots can extend further than 10 feet into the ground it can be very difficult to remove. Like most plants, it can also spread by many different means including high winds. Woods said they would protect landowners from the invasiveness of the plant, but in case of its spreading by way of natural disaster, he was unsure if they company would be responsible.

“We will indemnify and protect the landowner from invasive plants,” Wood said. “If you have a tornado and this was distributed in other places I don’t think we could be responsible for that.”

Woods added the spread of this plant by tornado would be very unlikely. He said they have dealt with this plant all over the world for many years and have never had such a problem arise.

“We don’t perceive of that happening,” Wood said. “We deal with a company that has been in business establishing plantations for some time. They have the largest number of plantations all over the world and they have never had an escape or invasion from arundo in a plantation.”

Contrary to what many people believe the plant has been in the south, and Alabama, for a number of years. Woods said it has been here for around 200 years and it had not created a problem up to now.

“Arundo has been here in Alabama since the early 1800’s,” Wood said. “If it were really going to cause a problem they should have recognized that by now and put it on the invasive plant list for Alabama, which it is not.”

West Wind said they are willing to have a binding agreement in writing to give farmers assurance they will be with them. Woods said they planned to stick with their partners to make sure everyone benefits.

“We will do the best we can and we will stick with you,” Wood said. “We will make a contract in writing.”

As anyone who has visited the Black Belt knows, hunting is not just a way of life it is a means of income. Each year farmers lease out thousands of acres of land to locals and out of towner’s who wish to hit the woods and take down a trophy buck.

Unfortunately, bamboo does not fall into the primary feeding source of many game animals.

During the meeting several landowners voiced concerns over the impact bamboo could have on their outdoors activities.

Woods pointed out the canebrake of Mississippi and its use as one of the favorite hunting locations in the South. He added deer often use canebrake as a hiding place and there should be ample game.

Most farmers left the meeting with still many questions to be answered. They will have their chance to leave no stone unturned at next weeks May 19 meeting which will consist of a full day of education on the plans, problems and solutions.