China Vetiver Network - CVN Annual Report


The year 1998 is an unusual year for vetiver technology development and dissemination through out China. In 1998, the CVN’s work focused on the following points: the continuation of vetiver technology dissemination to most of the provinces in southern China. Many new applications were tested, such as the uses of vetiver for vegetation recover on sandy dune in Poyang Lake area; recovery of copper mines; vetiver for river bank stabilization. More and more institutions were involved in vetiver tests and application. However, one of the most inspiring issues is that the grass has given deep impression to engineers who are working in highway and railway institutions, as they realized that the grass could be economically and effectively used for highway and railway embankment stabilization.

I. Information dissemination

Although many thousands of copies of vetiver publications were released country-wide in the past few years, there was still a strong demand for vetiver information dissamination. As a large agricultural country, there are thousands of research institutions at from national to provincial to prefectural level. Besides, there are many thousands of extension stations at county and township level involving agriculture, forestry, soil and fertilizer, soil and water conservation, etc. Besides, there are also thousands of institutions involving in engineering subjects and also ecology and environment. Therefore, information dissemination should be a top item in a long term.

In 1998, we continued to publish and distribute the following publications:

Vetiver Newsletter in Chinese, 4 issues with totaling 4500 copies were disseminated.

Vetiver Fact Sheets, 4 issues for total 8000 copies which introduced substantial technology to extension stations were mostly distributed to county extension stations.

Agroforestry Today a quarterly journal in Chinese published for 6 years, in which the vetiver grass formed one of the major components. The average circulation remained around 1000 copies.

Besides, Vetiver Research and Development, a Proceedings of International Vetiver Workshop (Fuzhou, 1997) with over 200 pages, was published in Chinese by Agricultural ScienTech Press of China.

In 1998, CVN also introduced vetiver through other multiple national or regional communication mediums, such as:

Chinese Journal of Ecology,

Soil and Water Conservation,

Soil Science,

Soil and Water Conservation in Fujian,

Science of Jiangxi Province,

Resources and Environment in the Yangtze Valley,

Reference Information,

Huangshan Daily.

To disseminate vetiver technology, multiple meetings and training courses were organized, co-organized, or participated by CVN and its members, such as:

South China Soil and Water Conservation Meeting (Xiamen),

Soil Erosion and Conservation Workshop (Jiangxi),

Vetiver Network Meeting of Fujian Province,

Yangtze River Flooding and Soil Conservation (Wuhan),

Sustainable Agriculture in Yangtze River Basin (Nanjing),

Vetiver for Edible Fungi Cultivation (Fuzhou),

One-day Training Courses in Fujian and Anhui Provinces, etc.

II. Vetiver introduced to highway institutions

During the International Vetiver Workshop organized in Fuzhou, October 1997, Mr Diti Hengchaovanich of Thailand introduced vetiver application in engineering aspects, which generated high interests in participants, most of them realized that there is a great potential in highway and railway construction and maintenance, because there has been a rapid development of highway and railway construction in China while vetiver could play an important role in the embankment stabilization and controlling the erosion caused by road construction. As a result, since the beginning of this year, we decided to do our best to introduce vetiver technology to highway institutions, as a representative of engineering field, which was divided into three steps:

(1) to disseminate vetiver information to highway and railway institutions;

(2) to design and establish large demonstrations showing how the grass can stabilize highway embankments and protect farm land from erosion and sediments along the road area and in the lower reaches and how to apply the vetiver more effectively and successfully.

(3) to organize a conference, in cooperation with national highway research institute and highway bureau to show engineers the examples.

To achieve this target, multiple measures were taken by CVN and its friendly members through out the country:

(1) CVN translated the article on vetiver grass in engineering application written by Diti Hengchaovanich into Chinese and distributed to 1200 highway institutions via our Vetiver Newsletter.

(2) In cooperation with experts and engineers from Highway Bureau of Jiangsu Province, and Survey and Design Academy of Communications of Jiangsu Province, we prepared articles to introduce vetiver and its application in highway aspects. These articles were published in several highway journals as:

The Journal of Jiangsu Provincial Highway Society

The Journal of Guangdong Provincial Highway Society

The Journal of East China Highways

Science and Technology of Communications of Zhejiang Province (to be published)

(3) The CVN introduced vetiver at several regional and national highway conferences, such as East China Highway Conference in Xiamen in June 1998, National Superway Conference in Kunming in November 1998.

Following the above information dissemination many engineers started to accept and test the grass. Again, just like the wide application of vetiver for erosion control, river bank stabilization, sandy dune fixing in Fujian Province, the Fujian Highway Bureau acted as a pioneer to accept the grass for highway embankment stabilization. On 8 July 1998, the Highway Bureau formally issued a document to ask all highway institutions through out the province to use the grass to protect the embankments. So, Fujian Province became the first one who authorize vetiver as an only grass for highway stabilization in China, and possibly in the world.

Following Fujian Province, the highway bureaus of Jiangxi Province, Zhejiang Province, and Hubei Province are also testing vetiver on different level highways and in different area.

Demonstration on vetiver for highway embankment stabilization and paddy field protection was established in Jianyang County of Fujian Province in 1997 and enlarged in 1998. A large demonstration is to be established in Fujian by Ms Zhangjing of CVN and Fujian Highway Bureau. During the East China Highway Conference held in Xiamen in June 1998, a special national highway conference titled Vetiver for Highway Embankment Protection and Slope Stabilization was proposed to be held later 1999 in Fuzhou in cooperation with national highway research institute and Fujian Highway Bureau. Looking is better than hearing. The conference participants will watch demonstration, exchange information, and then distribute vetiver technology more widely in highway field though out the country. Although agriculture and engineering were two independent kingdoms here in China, we are very pleased to see that vetiver enabled scientists and engineers joining together for solving a same problem soil erosion control and slope land stabilization, although it is only an initiation.

III. New applications and new users

The International Vetiver Workshop held last year familiarized more people with the grass. In order to support more person to test and use vetiver we released mini-grants. There were total mini-grants for US$ 10,375 distributed to 17 recipients in 7 provinces in 1998. In addition, CVN organized one million planting materials during the spring of 1998 and transported to 14 institutions in 9 provinces free of charge. All of these encouraged more scientists and technicians to test and use the grass. So far most of the recipients sent us feedback and used the mini-grants and/or planting materials very effectively and successfully. As most of the recipients were those who did not know or did not see the grass before, the first thing they did when they had received planting materials was to establish nursery for reproduction. Also, there were some recipients who arranged and conducted various tests or experiments with limited and valuable planting materials and re-distributed planting materials to their nighboring institutions. The followings are the short description of new applications:

Fujian Province

Ten hectares of demonstrations were established on saline sandy soils of Pingtan Island aimed at using vetiver to improve soil property and reduce salt contents. Meanwhile, the grass was planted as living fence along homegardens and roads to relief harmful effect of wind /sandy storm to the village. The prunings were used as fodder.

In addition to a small demonstration for 4 km for highway stabilization and 100 ha for slope tea and fruit tree protection in Jianyang County, in cooperation with Fujian Highway Bureau, three sections of highways with different construction standard were selected as large demonstration sites based on a joint field survey, and 10 ha of nursery was established to provide high quality planting materials which is very important for highway embankment stabilization because the living condition along highway is usually terrible where the soil has very little nutrients and retain little moisture, but usually contain harmful chemicals. As a result, the planting materials should be in high quality and planted carefully.

Following the International Vetiver Workshop, the Fujian Provincial Vetiver Network was established in November 1997 aiming at information exchanging, allocating planting materials, coordinating different institutions involving in agriculture, forestry, highway construction and maintenance, mining, etc.

Guangdong Province

-- Several new nurseries were established which can provide millions of planting materials for the year 1999.

-- The grass was planted in coastal islands to fix sandy dune. The tests indicated that that grass was much better than the traditional tree beef wood (Casuarina equisetifolia L.).

-- A demonstration of using vetiver for highway stabilization was implemented at the national highway No.106 near Guangzhou where the cut was 26 m high with 50( of slope.

-- More research was conducted on the effect of salt on vetiver; vetiver nanization with growth regulator; vetiver propagation with tissue cultivation.

Additionally, supported by National Natural Science Foundation, a new project is to be launched, studying the effect of heavy metal elements on vetiver in order to use vetiver to ameliorate metal mine wastes.

Hubei Province

In Hubei Province which is situated in central China and suffered from serious flooding in 1998, the grass was tested in three places: Luotian County, Huanggang City, and Machen City. All of these places belong to Poverty Area of the Dabie Mountain where soil erosion was proved to be serious. In Luotian County, the Huanggang Prefectural Soil and Water Conservation Institute established a nursery on the terrace. The grass grew extremely well. It was over 3 m high after 6 month's growth. Besides, the grass was also planted on the edges of the terraces. Unfortunately most of them were only around 40 cm high caused by repeated grazing of cattle and goat. It seems that these animals were fond of eating vetiver especially when it was young. Even the 6-month old grass cut from the nursery still attracted the goat. Hence, in sub-tropical area where there were less species of grass for animals, vetiver could be a prospective source of fodder.

In Huanggang City, the grass was successfully used to protect the new terrace which was 1 m deep and 4.5 m wide in average. Although it was only one growth season for 6 months since it had been planted after long distance transportation by train for over 20 days, it is quite evident that the grass experienced a very good example for soil erosion control, especially where soil was deeply disturbed such as newly established terraces.

In Machen City, a demonstration was established by the Soil and Water Conservation Station of Machen City. The grass was contour-planted on river banks consisting of pure white sands where there was very little water and nutrients. They all grew well and exerted as a pioneer plant for vegetation recovery. Even though vetiver was repeatedly grazed by cattle it grew much better than local wild weeds. There is a long distance of river bank in the city, i.e., 280 km, most of which consisted of white sands subject to be breached during the flooding season.

All of these tests showed that the grass had high survival rate even after long distance and long time transportation. The only problem is that they had fewer tillers (about 1:10-1:50) than that in Fujian Province (1: 80) as all of the planters did not prune the grass because they worried that pruning might be harmful to vetiver. All of the planters would enlarge their planting area and distribute the grass to their neighboring area in next spring. There were more than a dozen of counties in Hubei Province of Dabie Mountains visited the vetiver plots and asked for planting materials for testing.

Jiangxi Province

In Jiangxi Province, the grass was planted on sandy dunes formed by the river in order to establish an example for desertification control in sub-tropical China. The grass was planted in lines with a space of 5 m between rows. The ground water table was high but the soil was short of nutrients. Therefore, agricultural production there became impossible. Further more, there was an obvious tendency that the desertification is being spreaded. Although the height of most of the grass was around one meter after one growing season, evidently the grass played an important role in dune stabilization and the vegetation recovering. Since vetiver planted more grasses were found on the plots than the control. That is vetiver helped other grasses to grow on the barren land.

Another inspiring issue was that there was an excellent demonstration of using the grass for embankment stabilization at the highway of Nanchang-Jiujiang, where the slope was about 10 m high in which the lower 2 m was protected by stone and the remainder protected with honey combed grass.

Chongqing Municipality

Chongqing Municipality is situated at the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, belonging to the Three Gorges area. Accordingly, soil conservation became a critical issue to reduce the harmful effect of sediments to the dam and to diminish the losses caused by heavy flooding in the lower reaches. Supported by local government vetiver was introduced to the area, to have been used as pioneer plant for afforestation, controlling new soil erosion caused by resettlement of immigration, and retaining sediments on lower land.

Since the establishment of Municipality highways have been constructed in a large scale in the Three Gorge area. However, most of the highways were along rivers which migrated a lot of soil and rock into the river and caused further risk of slope collapse and point erosion. Vetiver was selected as a first specie for vegetation recovery and slope stabilization. The Fuling Forestry Institute has actively involved in the coordination of vetiver technology development in this area.

Shanghai Municipality

In Shanghai, vetiver was introduced and experimented by Shanghai Agricultural Academy starting from the spring 1998. They got planting materials from Jiangxi Province and also from Mr Diti in Malaysia.

Eleven tillers from Malaysia was planted and grown in green house from 17 February to 9 April. The tillering was 1:1.8 and the height was 15 cm in average at the end of this period. Then the grass was removed outside the greenhouse. Observation on 22 May indicated that survival rate was only 60% with 12 cm high. But later it grew as well as the vetiver from Jiangxi, except that it was shorter. It remains to be kown that if thay can stand winter in Shanghai.

The planting materials from Jiangxi was tested in several sites with different living conditions: nursery, river bank, pots, and orchards on slope land of Zhejiang Province. General speaking vetiver grew well at all of these sites, it could compete successfully with local weeds, and could withstand dry and waterlogging. They produced fewer tillers (from 1:8 to 1:20) compared with that in Fujian Province. In the coming year of 1999, the grass will be planted in a larger scale for Shuzhou River management and garbage yard covering, depending on the quantity of planting materials.

Jiangsu Province

The miracle grass vetiver was distributed into Agriworld as one of the most important component of modern agriculture and forestry technology this spring in Suzhou. Over 10,000 tillers of vetiver planting materials were transported to and planted in the Agriworld in March 1998. After 5 months’ the grass grew pretty well without any management. It could stand both dry and waterlogging. Now, the Agriworld is going to propagate the grass and as a modern technology to disseminate vetiver technology to the whole China by its information service system.

The Agriworld is an abbreviation for Suzhou Future Agriculture and Forestry World supported by Singapore WBL Co., Ltd., which was situated on the east bank of Taihu Lake. With 3,000 Mu (200 hectares), the Agriworld is to demonstrate the most modern agricultural technology in the world to Chinese farmers and to analyze and introduce development tendency of agriculture into China. The Agriworld will help upgrade China’s agriculture by collecting and providing scientific information and personnel, explore and design the direction of China’s agricultural development, promote the exchange of international scientific and economic issues.

Besides, multiple tests and experiments have been implemented in Jiangsu Province:

Vetiver was tested in Wuxi City by Limnology Institute of Academia Sinica for wet land utilization.

Supported by Director’s Foundation of Soil Science Institute of Academia Sinica the vetiver was to be used for eutrophication control in Taihu Lake.

Pot test was conducted in Nanjing for vegetation recovery of copper mine wastes.

Guangxi Province

In Guangxi Province, vetiver was mainly introduced and tested by Guangxi University and the Science Bureau of Du’an County. The grass was planted in nursery and water reservoir area. The experience from Du’an confirmed that the grass could withstand serious drought and long term waterlogging. The grass was planted on 1 April 1998. There were heavy water logging for three times: from 11 to 16 May with water depth for 50 cm above ground surface, from 23 to 30 June for 80 cm, and from 25 July to 5 August for 150 cm deep. Later, since 1 September there was a long period of drought for 2 months. Investigated at the end of October showed that vetiver still grew well with 2 m high, while the elephant grass which was planted at the same time died during the first waterlogging. As a result, the county leader planted to develop a larger nursery in 1999 to produce more planting materials in order that the grass can be planted in a large scale in the year of 2000.

It is worth to emphases that Du’an is national poverty county and they planted the grass with their own tighten budget. Some other poverty counties, such as Bama County, are also searched for planting materials for the application with their own money, because more government leaders realized that soil erosion could threaten their economy and aggravate their poverty, especially after the heavy flooding in the Yangtze River Basin in 1998.

The scientists in Guangxi University studied the effect of various factors on the growth of the grass, that includes: soils with different pH, fertility, organic matter, etc., different treatments before planting, sunshine and shading, temperature and moisture. Their study showed that pruning at a hight of 5 cm above ground surface promoted the growth of the grass, while the shoots of un-pruned grass begined to turn yellow when observed on 9 Noevember.

Moreover, vetiver exhibition was organized by Forestry Department to introduce the grass to students and colleagues during the 70 anniversary celebration of the university.

Anhui Province

In addition to Yuexi County in Dabie Mountain where the grass was introduced and extended in 1996, vetiver was introduced to Xi County, as a reproduction base. The county is situated in Huangshan Mountain area, a famous tourist site, and the grass is to be used for slope stabilization, reservoir protection, and highway stabilization in the region. It was implemented by an NGO called Ever Green Charity Society.

As we did in Fujian Province, one-day training courses were organized in several townships. Participants included master farmers and technicians, government officials and leaders from townships and counties as well. Meanwhile, small group discussions, from village to village and even from family to family, were implemented by CVN members, local technicians, and also government leaders, in order to disseminate vetiver technology and to listen to farmers' comments and suggestions.

Yunnan Province

Directed by Insect Resources Institute of Chinese Academy of Forestry, vetiver was introduced and planted in several cities or counties, such as Chuxiong City, Yuanmo County, Yuanjiang County, and Jingdong County. They established nurseries and implemented some experiments with very valuable planting materials for slope stabilization of waste mountain in the hot and dry valley, river bank protection, and highway embankment protection. They also cultivated seedlings with paper bags for vegetation recovery in the extremely hot and dry slopes. Again, all of these work was done on their own expenses except for the granted planting materials.

Other Provinces

In addition to the provinces described above, institutions in other provinces were also have high enthusiasm in testing and introducing vetiver, such as Hebei Province, Tianjing Municipality. In Shangdong Province, the grass became a top subject of research and extension by agricultural institutions.

To sum up, the year 1998 was a great year for vetiver technology dissemination and development through out China. More institutions, disciplines, and regions were involved in the technology. Many scientists and institutions promoted the development with their own funds.

IV. Jiji sao: a grass for soil conservation in cold and dry area

In 1998 three field investigations were carried out in Loess Plateau area involving 12 counties in 4 provinces in order to study the possibility of using jiji sao (Achnatherum splendens) as a ‘cold vetiver’ for the extremely dry and cold area. Mr Grimshaw led the first investigation in May. Through field investigations and discussion with villagers we realized that jiji sao was similar to vetiver but tolerant extremely draught and cold:


Its natural habitat is the saline soils in northwest China such as Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang Provinces. When planted on upland soils (such as the Loess soils) it grows extremely well.

Like vetiver it also belongs to Gramineae, some farmers in northern Shanxi use it to stabilize the vertical cuts made in the hill slopes above their houses to prevent slippage and damage to the house.

The grass has strong, deep (at least 3 meters), and profuse roots.

It is completely drought proof, and withstands extremely cold.

It has good longevity and is usually propagated vegetatively by plant division and is not invasive.

The grass was used also to feed animals with young leaves, to make basket, broom, mattress, rope, curtain, shed roof cover, and medicine. And also, it was used for pulp purpose and for highway stabilization as we saw in Inner Mongolia.

The jiji sao appears to have many similarities to vetiver grass, although there are some very distinct differences, including a less dense and weaker leaf system. However there are enough similarities, as well as farmer experience and knowledge, to suggest that jiji sao could be key to long term embankment stabilization (terrace, dams, and roads) in north China and other similar area in the world if planted as a closely spaced in line hedgerows across the slope of embankment as has been widely proven for vetiver. It also may well be possible to use it as an effective contour hedgerow on unterraced sloping land. The China Vetiver Network's newsletters included information on jiji sao. Some experiments were arranged in Ningxia Province on Loess Plateau. Demonstration was established in cooperation with county or township extension stations in Shanxi Province.

V. Improvement and promotion in 1999

All of the tests implemented in 1998 showed that the grass had high survival rate even after long distance transportation. It can tolerant various conditions. We have not got any report on insects or disease induced from vetiver so far. The grass in most of the planting provinces could flower but could not produce ripe seeds. Generally, the grass had fewer tillers in northern provinces than that in Fujian Province possibly caused by less rainfall and lower temperature. Almost all of the new planters did not prune the grass during the growing season because they worried that pruning might be harmful to the newly planted vetiver. Caused by the lack of planting materials, in some places the grass was planted with too much space between clumps, which still led to somewhat point erosion.

The experience showed that more institutions were involved in vetiver technology extension. Especially, we were very pleased to see engineers are being interested in the grass. Many new users applied the grass on their own expenses, including the institutions from poverty counties. As a result, in the year 1999, we are planning to distribute more planting materials free of charge to new users and then to establish awards for successful users, in stead of distribution of mini-grants.

In China, the construction of highway forms the major component of economic development and was deemed as a key channel for poverty alleviation. The total length of highway increased from 1,118,000 km in 1994 to 1,186,000 km in 1996. The annual increase reached 34,000 km. However, caused by financial limitation many highway embankments were not properly protected and subject to destruction, resulting in frequent re-construction and burdensome maintenance.

Further more, unprotected highways not only caused big problem in transportation but also influenced agricultural production and environment. The construction of highway often lead to accelerated run-off, new soil erosion, increasing sediments and land collapse in a considerable area outside road, dozens of meters wide as usual on both sides of highway. Friable road embankments formed serious point sources of erosion, that created major problems further down in the catchment area. Many farm lands with crops were buried by sediments coming from the destroyed highway embankments each year.

In 1999 a workshop on vetiver for highway embankment protection and slope stabilization was proposed to be held in October in order to show engineers the demonstrations, and to disseminate the technology more widely to highway, railway, and other engineering institutions.

In 1999, a comprehensive research will be started on Loess Plateau to investigate the COLD VETIVER: jiji sao:

effect of jiji sao hedges on run off and sediments (amount and nutrients)

effect of jiji sao hedges on the intercropped crops

ecological change of surface soil layer and micro climate

growth behavior of jiji sao under different water, pH, soil, fertility, and landform

Again, more demonstration, training, and small workshop will be organized. However, as we did in the past years, the top task will still be national information service to let more people to be familiar with and to use the grass.