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    August 25, 2014

    Christian Lydick is betting the farm on bamboo. “Bamboo will become a big energy producer,” he predicted on Friday. “It creates the most biomass with the least input.”

    He is clearly enthusiastic about the plant’s pest and disease resistance and tolerance for high temperatures.

    Lydick grows bamboo on a one-acre plot east of El Centro. It’s easy to find.

    Take Interstate 8 east from El Centro, exit on Bowker Road, head north and turn left onto Gillett Road. Lydick’s is the first place on the left. But, if you’re not careful, you’ll drive past it.

    That nondescript location hides more than 2,000 bamboo plants of various types and stages of growth.

    “Take a look at this,” Lydick said, gesturing at a growth of bamboo that towers over his head. “This is the one that grows where gorillas live on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

    That particular plant is one of just a few of that variety in the United States, he noted.

    Some of the bamboo that Lydick grows ends up on the shelves at Home Depot, he said.

    “Landscape architects want them in 24-inch boxes,” he said.

    Nowadays it’s the plant’s commercial applications that get him excited.

    “This one is called Guadua,” he said, crouching next to a small stand of bamboo. “They build houses in Colombia out of this.”

    According to Lydick, carpenters favor the Wamin variety because its swollen, bulbous nodes make nice drawer handles and other decorative elements.

    Some of the plants on Lydick’s property are more than 10 years old. He grows most of his plants from cuttings.

    “We section a culm (stem) and plant it,” he said. “Indonesia does it one way, Japan does it another way.”

    He is eager to dispel a common criticism of the plant.

    “Bamboo is not invasive,” he said. “It is a clumper. It grows in clumps from one point.”

    And then there’s its potential for plywood.

    In his estimation, bamboo’s fast growth makes it an attractive alternative to chopping down old-growth forests.

    “In three years we can replace what we harvested with minimal inputs,” he noted.

    Lydick is so convinced of its potential that he is talking to investors about setting up a plywood manufacturing facility in the Imperial Valley.

    “We have the climate, the land, the water and the expertise,” he said. “And the government offers benefits for businesses establishing in Imperial County.”

    Imperial Valley Press Staff