The harvest of bamboo for its edible shoots is an ancient and highly specialized act (6). The grower must know what proportion of the young shoots may be cut and when to cut without endangering the vigor of the parent plant. The usual practice is to cover and mound up the clumps with soil, rice hull, rice straw, bamboo leaves, etc so that the emerging shoots are in the dark. Polyethylene (PE) or polyCvinyl chloride) (PVC) sheets have recently been used on top of the mounds (7). Exposure of shoots to light causes greening and bitterness and these shoots are mainly used for processing. The shoots are ready for cutting when the tips are just emerging from the surface of the soil in the mound, if left much later they will become woody. First the mud is removed by hand and then the shoot is cut off with a sharp knife or spade designed for the purpose (Fig. 4) (5).
In Japan, bamboo shoots are forced by growing under mulch heated with electric cables placed 6-8 cm below the soil. About 2-3 cm of rice straw are placed on the soil surface, an additional 4-5 cm layer of soil is put on top, and finally plastic sheeting is laid on top of all. The soil temperature is kept between 13 and 15°C. By the mulching procedure, bamboo shoots can be harvested almost a month earlier than those not mulched (2).
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