Vetiver Investigation in Fujian Province, China

Jointly organized by China Vetiver Network and Fujian Provincial Water and Soil Conservation Station, a vetiver field investigation was held from 23-31 December 1996. The investigation team consisted of 16 persons from The Institute of Soil Science, Nanping City Water and Soil Conservation Office, Jianyang County Water and Soil Conservation Station, Jianyang Agricultural Foreign Investment Office, Fuzhou City Water and Soil Conservation Office, Pingtan County Water and Soil Conservation Station, and Pingtan County Agricultural Bureau etc. The purpose of the investigation was to: (1)evaluate the former experiences; (2) discuss new applications and extension measures; (3) consult new project proposals; (4) prepare some details on the proposed vetiver workshop to be held in Fujian later in 1997.

General Condition
Fujian Province is located on the southeast area of the country, E 115 - 120, N 23 - 28, with an area of 120,000 sq. km and a population of 30,000,000 (1990). About 85% of the area are mountainous or hilly. Under southern subtropical climate, a deep weathered red crust was formed with a thickness for several to dozens of meters. Due to increasing population and policy related problems the original forests were most destroyed, leading to heavily eroded lands. In many places, the land was covered by white semi-weathered granite rocks. There is also a long coast line in Fujian Province, about 3,300 km, and there are more than 1,000 islands in Fujian Province. Most of these areas were covered by white sands which contain high level of salts and was subject to wind erosion. Therefore, the plants can not survive or grow well. As early as in 1970's, vetiver grass was introduced into Fujian Province from Hainan Island for the purpose of extracting perfume. A perfume plant was established in Jianyang County. However, it was closed before long caused by low profit.

In late 1980's the Red Soil Project supported by the World Bank started in southern China and Mr. Richard Grimshaw came to China. Under his guidance and with his enthusiasm the vetiver trials and applications were carried out in much Red Soil Project area. At the same time, some scientists and technicians from non-project provinces went to this area to asking for plant materials and technology. Since 1988, vetiver has been extended to a large area in order to protect tea plantations with an area of 500,000 mu (33,000 ha) which were degraded owing to lacking of suitable protection measures. The planting area involves many counties such as Jianyang, Shaowu, Guangze, Shunchang, Anxi, Changle, Pingtan, Songxi, Pucheng, etc. About 200,000 kg plant materials was produced of which some was exported to neighbor provinces such as Jiangxi, Hunan, Sichuan, Shandong, Anhui, and Shanxi provinces. In addition to the National Vetiver Conference held in Shaowu in 1989, a workshop was held in Songxi organized by Nanping Prefecture. Vetiver planting was mainly organized by local Agricultural Foreign Investment Offices involving Red Soil Project and also water and soil conservation stations. The former mainly put emphases on extension, while the latter put emphases on field experiments.

Vetiver for the of Recover of Degraded Barren Lands
Experience shows that vetiver can grow on extreme soils such as the semi-weathered granite materials where the soil was almost completely eroded. The vetiver was contour-line planted in this area where other plants can not survive. The trial showed in Anxi County that after 3-5 years the barren land accumulated some litters, and other grass, shrubs, and trees grow gradually. At last, the barren and gully land was completely covered by multiple layer plants, shrubs and trees in particular, while it is difficult to find vetiver. So, farmers call vetiver a "pioneer grass". Besides, farmers told us that vetiver is a fire-proof grass, and can still grow when being buried by earth. Some persons said that after burning the grass can even grow better. In Fujian Province, vetiver can be multiplied 2-3 times per year. It survives easily. The trial conducted by Fuzhou Water and Soil Conservation Office showed that propagation can also be made through layering cut stem divisions. This method is very simple and very useful for filling the gaps of vetiver lines. When doing this, dig a hole in the gap with a spade and then bend the stems of vetiver at neighbor place into the hole and then put earth on it.

Vetiver for Orchards Protection
Vetiver was used by Jianyiang Water and Soil Protection Station and Agricultural Foreign Investment Office to protect orchards. They made hill-side ditches (narrow based terrace), circling surrounding hills with a width to which walking tractor can be operated. Along the ditch sides vetiver was double-line planted at a space of 20 x 30 cm without fertilizer application. The next year the grass grew up to 3 m, while the roots 1.5 m deep. The grass was cut 2-3 times a year, which promoted the grass to grow better and produce more tillers. The cuttings were used for ground mulch or pulp. About 1-2 years after planting the runoff decreased considerably. Three years after planting, the earth particles were efficiently detained by the vetiver "fence". As the out-sides of the ditches were a little higher than the inside, the ditches can retain water. Besides, they planted creeper grass to cover the ditch surface, such as Cassia rotundifolia, which promoted the protection function. The distance between two neighboring ditches is 20-25 m where fruit trees were cultivated, such as orange, red bayberry, or plum. The soil erosion in vetiver protected orchard planted in 1990 was completely controlled. Runoff became quite clear. The vetiver "fence" played an important role in erosion control, much better than building terrace which not only costs more money and labor, but also disturbs soil horizons, therefore influence the growth of fruit trees in the first few years.

Because rainfall occurs from April to June in Fujian Province, heavy rain caused serious soil erosion. Sometimes it rains "cats and dogs" and can wash 12 cm surface soil away. The vetiver protected orchards were never effected by the rain. Trials were conducted by Agricultural Foreign Investment Office of Jianyang County. They applied different fertilizers to vetiver, including rape seed cake, pig manure, lime, and calcium magnesium phosphate. The result showed that the pig manure was the best one for vetiver. However, it is unnecessary to use fertilizers for vetiver except for vetiver nursery.

Vetiver for Promoting Nuts Cultivation
Chinese chestnut has a wide planting area in northern Fujian Province. However, because of soil erosion the soil fertility has declined once the original plantation had been cleared and young chestnut trees have been planted. To solve this problem, the Hushan Orchard Plantation in Jianyiang County established vetiver fence in slope land with a slope of 12 degree. They cleared the degraded Masson pine and planted chestnuts with a space of 3 x 3 m. Instead of establishing terrace, they planted vetiver grass as a "fence" along contours every 2-3 meters in December 1990. The results showed that vetiver "fence" can control soil erosion very efficiently and saved the costs of building terrace. Now the chestnut trees have started to produce nuts. Their work also showed that the vetiver should be cut periodically. Otherwise, the grass may not grow well and produced fewer slips, which influenced its function of erosion control.

Vetiver for Stabilizing Coast Sands
In Fujian Province, there is a long coast line and there are numerous islands where the critical problem is wind erosion. The soil consists of coarse white sands which contain very little organic matter and much salts which cause difficulties for most plants to survive. The cultivated lands were frequently buried by sands and rivers and ditches were always being blocked by sands. As a result, farmers had to clear sediments away frequently. On the other hand some land and even villages were eroded out by sea water. To solve this problem wind break was established with Casuarina equisetifolia. However, the results indicated that the tree windbreak can not solve the erosion problem completely. Besides, farmers built rock walls along field blocks, ditches, or rivers. But walls were limited because they cost a lot. Since 1990's farmers there planted vetiver under the guidance of technicians. They planted vetiver along ditches, roads, and sea shore. Besides, they built windbreak nets with vetiver around plots to control wind and sands. In the plots they planted the profitable shrub jojoba to produce seeds for extracting lubricating oil. The vetiver was planted with double lines at a space of 20 x 20 cm and was cut two times each year. During the windy season, the vetiver windbreak was kept more than 2 m. They are proposing to build vetiver "fence" in a large area for vegetables and grain production in 1997.


For more information contact Liyu Xu of The China Vetiver Network