The Potential Use of the Vetiver Grass Technology for Soil and Water
Conservation and Land Stabilization in Madagascar.

October 28 to November 25 1997

by Richard G. Grimshaw

 (Note photos not included)


Introduction and Overview ........... 1
Potential Use of Vetiver Grass in Madagascar ........... 3
Commercial Use of Vetiver ........... 3
Farmer and Community use of Vetiver ............... 6
Proposed Strategy ................ 8
Key Activities for a Vetiver Initiative ............. 8
The establishment of a Madagascar Vetiver Network ........... 9
VGT Training and Awareness Program ............... 9
Identification of existing sources of Vetiver Grass multiplication nurseries ......... 10
Roll of Stake Holders .............. 11
Government of Malagascar (GOM). ................ 11
Donor Agencies ................. 11
CAP ................... 11
The Private Sector .................... 11
Costs, Economics and Risks. ................... 12
Cost ................... 12
Economic Benefits ....................... 12
Risks ..................... 12


1 Vetiver Grass - A Hedge Against Erosion. ................... 20
2      Technical Specifications ...................... 21
3 Mahajanaga Zone Field Visit Comments ................. 26
4 Vetiver and Agriculture. Feedback from selected world wide vetiverprograms with relevance to Madagascar 30
5        The Establishment of Nurseries, Popagation of Vetiver Grass and Associated "Experimentation" in Madagascar 47
6 Nursery Establishment for Vetiver Plants ................. 52
7 Observations and Experiments on the Multiplication, Cultivation,and Management of Vetiver Grass Conducted in China in the l950’s ........ 54
8 Madagascar Vetiver grass nursery and field application budgets ............... 61


During the month that I spent in Madagascar I traveled to Fianarantsoa, A’tondrazaka, Bealanana, and Mahajanga. Although I did not visit all the regions of the country, what I did see was sufficient to confirm the potential for using vetiver grass in Madagascar for erosion control and for road and embankment stabilization. These observations coupled with the review of various CAP documents relating to climatic and environmental conditions in Madagascar coupled with actual visual sightings of vetiver plantings confirm that vetiver grass, if grown correctly, can be used throughout Madagascar for conservation and stabilization purposes with a high degree of certainty in its efficiency and effectiveness.

The body of this report does not provide details of the technology itself (see Attachments 1 and 2 for details). In brief the technology will be effective when vetiver grass (Vetiveria zianioides) is correctly planted as a hedge row across the slope of the land or embankment. World wide evidence indicates that well placed vetiver hedgerows will reduce soil loss from land by as much as 90% and rainfall runoff by as much as 60%. Recent engineering tests in Malaysia indicate ".....The tensile strength of vetiver roots vary between 40 -180 Mpa for the range of root diameter between 0.2 - 2.2 mm. The mean design tensile strength is about 75 Mpa (equivalent to approximately one sixth of mild steel) at 0.7 - 0.8 mm root diameter which is the most common size for vetiver roots. This indicates that vetiver roots are as strong as, or even stronger than that of many hardwood species which have been proven positive for root reinforcement of steep slopes. In the soil block shear test, they found that root penetration of a two year old Vetiver hedge with 15 cm plant spacing can increase the shear strength of soil in adjacent 50 cm wide strip by 90% at 0.25m depth. The increase was 39% at 0.50m depth and gradually reduced to 12.5% at1m depth. Moreover, because of its dense and massive root system it offers better shear strength increase per unit fiber concentration (6-10 kPa/kg of root per cubic metre of soil) compared to 3.2-3.7 kPa/kg for tree roots......."

Vetiveria zizanioides, the species that exists in Madagascar, is thought to be (to be verified by DNA testing) the domesticated vetiver that we know as the "Sunshine" accession. This has exactly the same genetic characteristics as "Monto" vetiver in Australia, and the vetiver found in South Africa, Reunion, Zimbabwe , and many other countries. Monto vetiver has been extensively tested by the Australian Government for the past seven years, and has been recently released for the public as a non invasive or non weedy plant. This characteristic is important for Madagascar, and from field observations it is confirmed that the vetiver grown in Madagascar is non invasive, and stays where man plants it.

In Madagascar other characteristics of vetiver also follow observations from elsewhere in the world, including its ability to adapt to a wide range of conditions (dry/wet climate; low/high pH, high/low fertile soils), fire, grazing and pest tolerance, etc. There is therefore no need to carry out extensive and duplicative research into the grass and the technology, rather research should be directed to back up field development efforts and to modify,where necessary, the technology through carefull analysis of field experience. For example Madagascar’s landscape is being continually modified by the development of large "lavakas" (gullies) that are the source of massive sediment flows that destroy down stream cultivated wetlands (bas-fond) and eventually end up in the sea causing damage to coral reefs and associated fisheries. Vetiver hedgerows could do much to prevent or reduce these flows and would lead to quicker rehabilitation of the lavakas. Practical research in this area would be useful.


In reviewing the uses of the vetiver grass technology in Madagascar a distinct division can be drawn between uses that are "commercial" in nature (ones that would more often or not require a guaranteed and continuing supply of high quality plant material produced and sold to the end user by commercial nurseries) that would fall under CAP’s objectives of supporting the private sector; and uses that relate to the farming community and donor agencies, primarily for natural resources conservation, particularly for soil and water conservation purposes.

Commercial Use of Vetiver

Control of Point Source Erosion Much of the sediment flow carried in Madagascar’s rivers come from specific and identifiable sites. These include highly vulnerable lavakas, erodable river banks that threaten construction works, new and old roads, railroads, and special construction sites such as building sites and "borrow" pits. All these sites produce heavy sediment flows when new and vulnerable, and when subjected to Madagascar’s intense rainfall regime. Vetiver should be considered and included in the design of all sites that are unstable and are potential sites of point source erosion, i.e. roads, railroads, and building construction sites; and could be introduced to old sites to stabilize deteriorating situations and to reduce maintenance costs. In China it has been recently estimated that vetiver technology used for highway stabilization results in a 90% saving over conventional engineering systems. Obviously it would be impossible to stabilize all Madagascar’s lavakas, but there are many that have caused, and continue to cause, considerable damage by the way of cross flows of heavy sediments at points where roads cross drainage lines. These need identifying and stabilizing with vetiver hedgerows. Vetiver has been used in the past rather haphazardly for road side stabilization, but even so it has been effective (CAP staff found a section of the Bealana road successfully stabilized with vetiver, as have roads on the wetlands of Marovay).

Stabilization of special structures Wherever concrete structures interface with soil a point of "weakness" is created, particularly if subjected to high velocity water flows. We saw many sites on the Bekobai road (see attachment 3 for details) as well as national highways where river crossings, bridges and culverts had washed out because of the interface "weakness". In every case the damage could have been averted if a very small amount of money had been spent on planting vetiver at and around the interface. In most cases this expenditure would have been less than $500 per structure, often no more than $10!! Unfortunately repair bills will run into thousands of dollars.

Stabilization of road turnout drains and edges of roads . The genesis of low cost country road failure, such as those being built by CAP, can nearly always be traced to the drainage system, the high velocity water flows in the drains, culverts and turnout drains. Vetiver will help mitigate most of the problems associated with drainage and road surface losses (see attachment 3 recommendations)

Irrigation canals and drainage systems. Some of the canals and drains at Marovay (Mahajanga) have been stabilized with vetiver grass. The technology applied was not the best (clumps planted too far apart and so on) — but total stability has resulted from vetiver planting. One field canal had, with vetiver on either side, not been maintained or cleaned for eight years—the banks were stable, the canal had kept its shape, and there were no weeds whatsoever (shaded out by the vetiver). Water flows had not been impeded. I first came across this use of vetiver in Zimbabwe and called the system the "Labat System" after Jano Labat, a Mauritian sugar farmer who had refined the system. As a result of his example the technology is being applied to 250,0000 ha of irrigated sugar land in Zimbabwe’s Low Veldt.

Building Sites Because of Madagascar’s hilly topography many housing, industrial and institutional sites are located on areas of "cut and fill" (see for example the site for the new French Lycee in Antananarivo). It is very important to stabilize these sites because they can be dangerous to human life if not properly protected. Vetiver has been used very successfully in South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, and California for site stabilization and protection, and should be used in Madagascar as well.

Municipal Landfills and mine dumps Municipal land fills and mine dumps are notorious as sites that are difficult to stabilize and have reputations for producing dangerous and toxic leachates containing many of the poisonous heavy metals. In Australia and South Africa such types of sites have been stabilized with vetiver (vetiver is more tolerant than nearly all other plants to most of the common heavy metals), and probably there are situations in Madagascar that would fit into this category.

Farmer and Community Use of Vetiver

There is a large need (as against a large demand) for individual and community involvement with vetiver grass technology for soil and water conservation. Slow, but effective work, particularly by the NGO, ANAE, has demonstrated at many sites (in the hundreds) that vetiver hedgerow technology is a very effective, cheap, simple, and an easy to manage technology that farmers seem to like. Although results have not been fully quantified farmers in Madagascar indicate that vetiver reduces erosion, builds up natural terraces, reduces rainfall run off and fertility losses, increases crop yields, and allows for continuing cropping. In addition farmers indicate that vetiver makes a good thatch and mulch, is eaten and actually liked by livestock, and can be used for handicrafts. Village communities in addition are using vetiver to demarcate the boundaries between their houses, to reduce soil loss around the houses, and to stabilize drainage ways that pass through the villages. (Attachment 4 sets out feedback and testimonials on the use of vetiver from countries other than Madagascar). In most cases once a farmer has acquired initial vetiver planting material he creates additional material though insitu division of his hedgerows. Thus in most cases "one-off" supplies of vetiver are required, together with proper farmer training in the benefits and application of the technology. To make an appreciable impact, on a what is probably an accelerating rate of land degradation, government and donor programs, in association with NGOs, communities, and individuals, should be prepared to look for ways to use vetiver on a large scale. There are other technologies, that of course should not be excluded, but they all have their problems and are slow to be adopted. The vetiver technology is the simplest, cheapest, and most effective technology — requiring minimum maintenance — and should be given priority. It is also a technology that everybody, from whatever agency or discipline can get involved with. The model worked out by some NGOs, communities and government agencies in Oaxaca, Mexico might be an interesting one to follow (see Attachment 4)

Soil and water conservation on farm lands Vetiver has been demonstrated to be effective on both bas-fond (wet bottom land) and on tanety (upland). It can be used to stabilize bottom land dikes and upland terraces. On the uplands it can be planted directly on the contour on unterraced lands. Vetiver hedgerows will bring soil losses down to reasonable and acceptable levels, will prevent organic matter loss (i.e. farm yard manure and soil organic matter), and will reduce rainfall runoff resulting in improved soil moisture, increased groundwater, and better yields. Because of its deep root system vetiver can recycle nutrients, not normally available to crops, by treating the vetiver leaves as a crop residue and incorporating them in the soil. In China on acid red soils vetiver when used as mulch on a citrus farm, over three years, increased soil organic matter from 0.4% to 1.8%, and increased the level of all nutrients, particularly P and N. I would go so far as to venture that under Madagascar’s intensive rainfall regime (including cyclones) that there is little point in trying to build up soil organic matter unless the improved soils are protected with vetiver hedgerows. Vetiver protection would normally be in the form of contour hedgerows, but in some situations half circle hedges around individual trees would be appropriate.

Vetiver hedgerows and the control of sediment flows from lavakas and tenety land to the bas-fond. Vetiver might in certain situations have an important role as hedge rows across the width of bas-fonds to prevent down slope movement of sediments, particularly in situations where sediment from upslope lavakas are invading the bas-fond. Vetiver can also be used as a barrier across the mouth and in the bottom of lavakas to prevent lavaka sediment from entering the bas-fond. As witnessed at A’tondrazaka, a community supported by ANAE has identified such problems and is dealing with them through the use of vetiver. Another use of vetiver hedgerows is its placement as buffer strips along the interface of the bas-fond and the tanety for sediment control and tanety runoff velocity reduction. Most of these activities would need to be undertaken by communities rather than individuals, and community nursery production is encouraged.

Rural water supply. There is good evidence to support the role of vetiver in ground water improvement. Because of its extraordinary root system that is able to punch through laterite and hardpans, water is able to move better through the profile. As a result ground water levels (and well levels) increase, and spring water becomes more reliable as reported by FIFABE at Marovay. (IDEA!! It might even be possible to create special vetiver filter beds for the filtering of diverted "muddy" river water for the creation of cleaner village water supplies for those villages situated near running water).

Vetiver and forestry. Old forest plantations that are regularly coppiced (particularly eucalyptus) have a reputation for high runoff rates and erosion. New plantings are often worse. In China and Vietnam, vetiver (under Eucalyptus) has been shown to reduce run-off (and erosion) by as much as 60%. Vetiver is not effective under heavy shade but will take light shade.

Rehabilitation of barren lands. Vetiver is an ideal plant to rehabilitate lands that have been completely devoided of trees, shrubs and grasses. Such situations often occur near villages, and through years of neglect have continued to deteriorate. There are many examples of such rehabilitation, but two stand out—one on the sodic soils on the Ganges Plain in India, and the other on the hilly red acid soils of southern China. In both cases these totally denuded areas were rehabilitated to forest lands with vetiver used as a pioneer grass.

Vetiver for oil production. This may be profitable in Madagascar, given the low labor rates, but it is an industry subject to inelastic supply and demand and fluctuating prices. If vetiver is promoted for oil production, sites should be selected on flat sandy loam alluvial soils that are unlikely to erode, and that have a source of supplementary irrigation. Small holder outgrowers clustered around a nucleus grower with oil distilling capability would probably be the best route to take. Note that oil producers could sell the crowns of the plant (not distillable) for planting material. This would provide added income and in time of low oil prices might keep the grower in production.


VGT is the simplest and least costly technology that can be applied (with occasionally minimum modification) throughout Madagascar for a wide range of end use applications.

As established in the foregoing paragraphs, there is sufficient experience and evidence in Madagascar, which when added to world wide research and utilization of the vetiver grass technology (VGT), to provide for a firm basis for the development of a long term plan for a wide use of VGT to support Madagascar’s efforts to mitigate current and expected increasing rates of environmental damage to its natural resources and investment infrastructure. In parallel to environmental damage mitigation VGT will play an important role in increasing rural income.

Key Activities for a Vetiver Initiative: Any large scale VGT initiative will require three key activities:

  • participation of a wide range of users, agencies, and businesses acting in a loose form of association that provides for transparency and sharing of development, production and utilization of VGT — thus the need and role for a network that will broker "connections" (case study of cooperation in Oaxaca, Mexico is attached at attachment 4), help initiate activities; help match "supply and demand", promote the technology, and assure for vital dissemination and feedback of information to all members of the network;
  • effective training programs for intermediary (NGO’s, Gov. sector agencies, private sector enterprises) and end users (farmers, communities, construction companies etc.) in the utilization and benefits of the technology, and in the technology and its correct application—the network will have a vital role in this training process particularly in the training of the intermediaries;
  • identification of existing sources of vetiver grass in Madagascar, and establishment of large numbers of widely located vetiver grass multiplication units owned and operated by farmers, communities, and commercial entrepreneurs.

The establishment of a Madagascar Vetiver Network.

At the CAP sponsored workshop held at Mahajanga (November 1997) it was agreed by a wide range of participants that VGT should be used widely in Madagascar, that a network with six regional steering groups should be established, and that CAP should be responsible for establishing and managing the Network until the CAP project is completed in 1999. As a result of subsequent discussion with CAP management it is recommended that:

  • CAP establishes the Madagascar Vetiver Network (MVN) as a legal independent non profit organization, and that a Board of Directors be appointed;
  • MVN would appoint CAP to establish and operate MVN until CAP’s mandate expires in 1999;
  • CAP would second two or three staff to administer MVN;
  • establishment of the six regional groups and agreement on overall strategic mode of operation for the promotion of VGT;
  • a work plan, budget, and administrative procedures would be established;
  • establishment of MVN homepage on the Internet;
  • independent funding would be sourced from local donor agencies to cover the operations of MVN; and
  • on the termination of CAP’s MVN management contract MVN would be able to continue as a fully operational network (because of the nature of its work it would need continuing external funding).

VGT Training and Awareness Program

MVN would immediately start a training workshop program for intermediaries and commercial users. The objective of the workshops would be to jump start the vetiver initiative. This training program would include:

  • awareness training about the need and potential utilization of VGT in Madagascar;
  • training on the social, physical and economic benefits of VGT;
  • training in VGT marketing, intra group/NGO/donor/agency cooperation, and vetiver entrepreneurship; and
  • training in the multiplication of vetiver grass (nurseries) and its field proper application (attachment 5, 6, and 7 includes notes on technology application at nursery and field application sites).

The workshops would be held at suitable sites in Madagascar and would last about four days including one day visiting actual and potential sites. It is estimated that in 1998 at least 10 training workshops would be needed (six regional, and four for special sector agencies such as Agriculture and Forestry, Highways, water and irrigation , and the environmental agency). Thereafter MVN would probably run twice yearly "feedback/planning" workshops.

NGO’s, donors and other agencies would subsequently develop their in house training programs to meet the specific demands of their needs and mode of operations. Specifically they would be responsible for training their own staff and end users.

Currently sufficient VGT information is available, much of it made available by The Vetiver Network (Leesburg, USA). The Vetiver Network (TVN) will supply other information, as and when requested. Four priority actions are required: (1) publication of the third edition of the handbook "Vetiver Grass - A Hedge against Erosion" in French and Malagasy; (2) reproduction of additional audio visual slides, videos, and CD Roms; (3) translation into French and Malagasy of VGT key papers; and (4) quick and adequate dissemination of this information.

Identification of existing sources of Vetiver Grass multiplication nurseries

The regional working groups would be co-opted to identify, through their local connections existing sources of vetiver grass. MVN would keep a register of these source locations so that buyers/users could be assisted in locating the grass. This register would also be included on MVN’s homepage.

The key to the success of the VGT initiative will be the early establishment of a large number of productive, efficient, and profitable nurseries. These nurseries would be considered productive and efficient if they could supply at least 1 million bare rooted planting plugs (1 plug comprises of three slips) per ha per annum. 1 million plugs would be sufficient to plant 100 linear km of vetiver hedgerows. In addition these nurseries could supply plastic containerized vetiver plants for special engineering purposes (up to 200,000 containers per year per nursery would be considered feasible). These nurseries would be operated as commercial enterprises and would be profitable with annual income margins of between US$ 1000 to $11,000 per ha (estimated budget attached at attachment 8). The better businesses would be encouraged to expand into the market and become not only vetiver grass suppliers but also contractors to highway and other construction companies for purpose of stabilizing engineered sites using VGT. A case study of the NOBS’ operation in El Salvador is at attachment 4. In such cases these companies would probably launch their own marketing campaigns. The support to these commercial nurseries would fit CAP’s present role as a commercial business innovator and broker.

As part of this commercial nursery establishment would be in some instances complimentary activities in vetiver oil production. The combination could be very profitable. However any help supplied by CAP in this area should be tied to strict production management norms that would include correct site selection and the management of the site so that erosive nature of deep digging the roots would be neutralized. This could be best done by insuring that all commercial vetiver for oil be grown between properly aligned contour vetiver hedgerows.

Nurseries would also be needed to be established by NGO’s and other agencies at community (village level). It is expected that apart from on-farm vetiver needs, communities will expand the current use of vetiver and apply it to community works such as prevention of sediment flows from lavakas on to bas-fond lowlands.


Government of Malagascar (GOM). Key GOM agencies especially those involving the environment, agriculture, highways and water would be encourged to use the technology in their designs and subsequent investment programs. Government research agencues such as FORFIFA would participate in the initiative and would provide targeted research and experimenation to supplement the vetiver program in the field. MVN/CAP should as priority give a halfday awareness workshop to senior government officials and policy makers.

Donor Agencies such as USAID, World Bank, EEC, Swiss Development Fund, GTZ, and others are already interested or involved with vetiver in their programs. Donors should accelerate the use of VGT in their programs. This applies to all sectors, but would be invaluable and cost saving for wide application in engineering projects. Donors should also be encouarged to support MVN with funds, either directly or indirectly through their projects. MVN/CAP should as priority give a halfday awareness workshop to senior donor officials.

CAP has two key roles. First it should act under its current mandate to help the private/commercial sector develop their role in the vetiver initiative; and secondly it should establish MVN and get it fully operational and effective by 1999.

The Private Sector should respond to demand for vetiver oil, plant material, and contractural demands on engineering projects. It should also be encouraged to participate for the social and environmental good to support the not so profitable needs of small farmers and communities, just as El Salvador’s NOBS is currently doing in that country.



Costs estimates have not been detailed for the establishment of MVN. This will be done by CAP. Costs need not be high, particularly if other agencies are fully involved and use their facilities etc. for training etc.

Cost estimates for actual on site vetiver utilization vary from site to site. However it has been estimated that farmers can stabilize their tanety lands from between $4 to $12 per ha. depending on the slope of land and availability of plant material. Vetiver used for embankment stabilization will cost from 2 US cents (bare rooted) 50 - 75 US cents (containerized plants) per square meter of embankment stabilized. This, for example in China, represents savings of about 90% over the cost of using stone.

Economic Benefits

Economic analysis have been undertaken by a number of economists and the results invariably show high IRR of 90% or higher. This is not surprising when you consider the low cost and ease of application of the VGT.


There are really no risks associated with the technology itself. It is a non invasive grass, the technology is well proven in all the areas of potential utilization. The risks, if any, are associated with incorrect technical application. Thus the proposed training of intermediate and end users is an essential component of any vetiver program and should be given priority attention. Other risks associated with market demand and the supply of good quality vetiver can be reduced if CAP and MVN does an adequate job in promoting awareness campaigns, and the private sector companies vigorously advertise their product.

Attachment 1

Vetiver Grass - A Hedge Against Erosion.

There are twelve known varieties of Vetiver grass, the most important is Vetivaria zizanioides. For centuries the oil extract from the roots of V.zizanioides has been used in the perfume trade. Indigenous peoples have recognized vetiver for its medicinal uses, for thatching, mulch, and feed, and for soil and moisture conservation. In more modern times the sugar industry has used vetiver grass quite widely as contour conservation hedges and for the stabilization of road sides and embankments. Vetiver once thought to be confined to wetlands thrives over a range of ecological conditions. It grows both on highly acidic (pH4) and alkaline soils (pH11). Its roots will grow to depths of 3 meters . It is not effected seriously by pests or diseases. Many cultivars are non flowering, these when combined with a non spreading root system prevents "escape". Each clump of vetiver is extremely dense, so dense that if configured correctly will act as a near perfect filter. The grass is easy and cheap to establish, and needs minimum maintenance.

When planted as a contour hedge it acts as a continuous filtering system, that slows down rainfall runoff, reduces rilling and gullying, and collects soil sediments at the hedge face. Soil and nutrient loss is reduced, soil moisture and ground water improves significantly, and natural terraces and ground levelling develops behind the hedge. An important feature is that vetiver grass takes up minimal space and is virtually non competitive with adjacent crops. Apart for soil conservation uses vetiver is seen to be an important grass for the stabilization of road embankments, canals, bridge abutments, landslide prevention etc. In other words it is a biological alternative to structural reinforcing techniques.

In south India, near the city of Mysore farmers have grown vetiver for years as hedges to demarcate farm boundaries, just as farmers in Kano, Nigeria,have done so for centuries (V. nigratana). Since the mid 80’s vetiver technology has been introduced to over 80 countries. Dissemination was achieved through videos, slides, newsletters, journal articles, and small books - all of value to end use users - farmers, extension workers and NGOs. Demand for information has accelerated as a result of the recent National Academy of Sciences (Washington DC) scientific review of vetiver under a committee chaired by Dr Norman Borlaug. The published report "The Thin Green Line" endorses all the work to date and calls for further efforts to introduce vetiver as a major technology for soil and moisture conservation in the tropics and sub tropics.

Research has been carried out by numerous agencies working in tropical areas. Research by CIAT in Colombia (1800 mm rainfall per annum) shows soil loss reductions from 143 tons (no protection) to 1.3 tons per hectare (protected by vetiver), no reduction in crop yields, and reduced water run off. At ICRISAT south India (650 mm per year) soil loss reduction is significant and the rate of runoff in these dry areas is greatly reduced, by as much as 60%. Yoon (Malaysia) and Materne (Louisiana) have undertaken some remarkable and practical demonstrations of its use, function, and management. At the same time feed back from growers including large South African sugar growers and small farmers in Ethiopia, India, China, Central America and the Philippines all confirm the tremendous potential of the grass and its use in soil and moisture conservation.

Attachment 2

VETIVER GRASS Technical Specifications

Name: Vetiver grass (Eng), Khus Khus (Urdu/Hindi), Secate violetta (Spanish), Xieng Geng Sao (Mandarin).

Family: Gramminae Vetivaria zizanioides, V.nigratana, V.nemoralis

Origin: V. zizanioides — Asia - subcontinent, V.nigratana — Southern Africa, V.nemoralis — South East Asia

Uses: Aromatic oil from roots for perfume industry


Fodder (when properly managed)


Paper making

Soil and water conservation

Land and embankment stabilization

Land Rehabilitation



Habit: Perennial grass up to 2 m high with a strong dense and mainly vertical root system often measuring more than 3 m. It is by nature a hydrophyte, but often thrives under xerophytic conditions.

Climate: Temperature

  • Mean 18 - 25° C
  • Mean coldest month 5°C
  • Absolute minimum - 15°C
  • When ground freezes grass usually dies
  • Growth normally starts above 12°C
  • Hot summer temperatures (25°C +) required for rapid growth

Rainfall: - as low as 300 mm, but above 700 mm preferable

  • will survive total drought, but normally requires a wet season of at least three months. Ideal is well spread monthly rainfall.

Humidity: - grows better under humid conditions, but does well also under low humidity.

Sunshine: - difficult to establish under shade, when shade is removed growth recovery is rapid.

Soil: grows best on deep sandy loam soils. However it will grow on most soil types ranging from black cracking vertisols through to red alfisols. It will grow on rubble, both acid (ph3) and alkali (pH11) soils, it is tolerant to high levels of mineral toxicities - aluminium, manganese (550 ppm), copper, nickel, arsenic, etc. It will survive complete submergence in water for at least three months. It grows on both shallow and deep soils.

Altitude: over 2,000 m. constrained by low temperatures at higher altitudes.

Rooting Pattern: Massive root system that is generally vertical and non-invasive to adjoining habitat. Root mass will under good conditions be as much as 3 m deep, and as a mass creates a major below ground barrier. Roots will penetrate weathering "C" horizon rock material, and will follow cracks in otherwise unweathered rock material. Roots are very strong (average tensile strength 75 MPa) and have the capacity to bind strata together.

Type of user: Small and large farmers, conservationists, water authorities, highway engineers, aromatic industry, traditional medicine etc.

Varieties & cultivars: there are 12 known species of vetiver grass, and many hundreds of different cultivars that exhibit distinctive phenotypic differences which can be exploited by users depending on need. For example thick, stiff stemmed cultivars can withstand high water velocities and probably are best for controlling gully erosion, softer more prostrate cultivars are better for fodder.

Propagation: By root division. If plenty of planting material is available in the form of existing hedges then these hedges can be divided. In scarcity situations nurseries are required for multiplication purposes. Depending on rainfall and soils 1 slip can produce from 30 -100 new slips in six months. Some cultivars have no flowers, others have flowers, but sterile seeds, others have fertile seeds - the latter type should be avoided. Where end planting sites are very unstable (such as road embankments or gullies with high velocity water flows) it may be more appropriate to raise vetiver in containers, such as 4" polybags. The advantage of this is that there is "instant" growth of the transplanted material rather than initial dieback that occurs with bare rooted plant material.

Planting: Planting of hedgerows should take place early in the wet season when the soil has been well wetted. 2-3 slips should be planted at each "station", each station should be 10 - 15 cm apart. Distance between hedgerows should be at a vertical interval of about 2 m. On flatter land VI may be reduced to 1 meter. Care should be taken to select good quality slips, and they should be planted within three days of lifting from nursery. Better to plant on the day of lifting. Planting slips should not be allowed to dry off and should be protected from the sun. From 2,000 - 3,000 planting slips are required per 100 m of hedge row. Under very dry conditions, > than 700 mm it is better to plant vetiver slips in small "v" ditch or plough furrow to enhance moisture availability at time of planting.

Shade: Unless a shade tolerant cultivar (rare) is available vetiver should not be planted under shade, later it will withstand shade levels of up to 50%. It will also recover rapidly following the removal of shade.

Fertilizer: Vetiver will establish better if about 100 kg of FYM is applied per 100 running meters of hedgerow at planting. If FYM is not available di-ammonium phosphate should be applied at about 10 kg per 100 meters. Note one of the advantages of FYM is that it helps to improve moisture availability to the young vetiver plant at time of establishment. FYM and/or DAP should be applied liberally to nursery sites prior to planting of material for multiplication. The use of slow release NPK nuggets for containerized plant material, though not essential, optimises growth rates. There is no need to use fertilizer for maintenance purposes once the hedges have been established.

Yield: Aromatic oil: 1 - 1.5% of the dry weight of the roots that are harvested for distillation (root yield of between 1500 kg to 2000 kg of dry root per ha every 14 months)

Leaves: yield levels under fertile and moist (irrigated) conditions can be as high as 100 tons per ha. Normally 15 -30 tons/ha.

Pests and diseases: Vetiver is generally resistant to most pest and diseases. In China incidence of rice stem borer has been identified. Vetiver appears to be more susceptible to disease when it is weak and not growing well, particularly on very shallow soils in association with drought conditions. Under the latter conditions, root fungus attacks can be serious. Termites will only attack dead or dying parts of vetiver. If the attack is serious the termite "hills" created can smother living vetiver. Under such conditions annual burning of vetiver hedges will greatly reduce the incidence of termite damage due to burn out of dead plant material

Longevity: Vetiver is known to live for a long time. The longest recorded period is about 60 years (at Msamfu Research Station in Zambia).

Availability of plant material vetiver can be found in most tropical and semi-tropical countries. Often it has been introduced by aromatic and essential oils industry. National and university herbariums often have vetiver in their collections, and have the local name for it. Traditional medicine users often know of a source of vetiver (though they will not know the grass as vetiver). Vetiver can often be found in countries with established sugar industries, as the latter have used vetiver for conservation purposes over many years. There are well known sources of good quality vetiver in eastern and southern Africa, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the United States. It is stressed that seedless or sterile vetiver cultivars should be used.

Establishment costs: The cost of establishment of vetiver depends much on the level of farm labor wages. In most countries where labor rates are about US$ 1 - $1.50 per day vetiver can be established in the field at about US$3 per 100 meter of running hedgerow. Containerized planting can be 10 times higher. Farmers who have a source of vetiver on their farms or nurseries close at hand, can dig and plant between 100 and 200 meters of vetiver per day.

A well managed nursery can produce over 3 million planting slips per ha per year, sufficient to plant 100 km of hedge row.

Impact on soil losses: Records from most sites where data has been collected indicate that erosion levels can be reduced by up to 90% to less than 3 tons/ha of soil loss per annum. This is an acceptable level.

Impact on runoff reduction: records indicate that runoff can be reduced by as much as 60 -70% of recorded rainfall. Variation is quite high, and depends on slope, rainfall event intensity, and potential infiltration rates and water holding capacity of soils at site.

Ground water recharge: Not many investigations have been undertaken, but it appears that recharge rates of 30% over non protected areas are being achieved where vetiver is used.

Crop Yield Increases: Research and on-farm data confirms that in the majority of cases there are quite significant yield increases associated with the use of vetiver grass hedges varying from 15 - 60%. Yield increases are variable and are associated with rainfall patterns and soil types. Risk of crop failure is reduced. It should be noted that in most instances does not compete for moisture and nutrients with adjoining crops.

Further Information: Information on vetiver is available in many countries. The Vetiver Network (Leesburg, Virginia, USA) and seven regional and national networks manage internet homepage sites and issue newsletters and other information. New participants are welcome. For more information contact: The Vetiver Network, 15 Wirt Street NW, Leesburg, Virginia 21076, USA.

Email: [email protected] homepage: Tel. 703 771 1942; Fax: 703 771 8260.

Attachment 3


Field Visit Notes

Bekobai Road

This road has been engineered as a dry weather road only. Basic design standards include a cambered road surface, vertically sided box drains, standard drainage turn outs, concrete culverts and low-level concrete causeway river crossings. The road has no all weather surfacing. Soils are generally sandy and unstable, and the road surface and drains are subject to periodic intense rainfall. Part of the road passes through highly unstable broken topography which is the source of a series of cross drainage lines that are dry most of the time, but under heavy rainfall are subject to flash floods and heavy sediment flows from the upstream "lavakas".

These types of roads could be improved by:

  • increasing the number of turn out drains, thus reducing volume and velocity flows in the narrow side drains. Note the rainfall runoff may be greater than anticipated at the design stage, and might warrant larger cross section drains;
  • designing turn out drains first to remove water rapidly from side drains, and then discharging the drain water safely onto the nearby landscape without causing erosive gullying. This can be best achieved by ensuring that the turn out drain is brought to a graded contour of about 4:1000 as soon as is feasible. The lower side of the turn out drain should be protected by a vetiver grass hedge, and the hedge should be continued past the end of the turn out drain by some 20 meters so that surplus water can be filtered off gradually; and
  • using vetiver grass in various hedge configurations to protect the road and associated structures (see below).

Using vetiver grass hedgerows for road and structure protection

The general principles in using vetiver for road protection should include:

  • mandatory establishment as a tight hedgerow (single clumps planted at random or too far apart are useless and result in technology failure);
  • creation of specific criteria and standards that contractors must adhere to;
  • application of correct technology to high quality standards;
  • use of high quality vetiver planting material;
  • use of bare rooted plants where planting is to take place during the rainy season. i.e. use bare rooted plants along side of road; along side of road drains (both sides) and along lower edge of turn out drains and their extensions; for rehabilitation of borrow pits, and for stabilization of embankments that are not subject to slippage or high volume water flows; and for drainage catchment stabilization that is not subject to intensive flooding or high velocity water flows;

use containerized plants for:

  • stabilizing and protecting high cost structures such as causeways, bridge abutments, culverts; and embankments;
  • stabilizing embankments and cuts where slippage can be expected in wet season, or where slopes are so excessive (> 90%) that slope failure might have catastrophic results (i.e. road closure);
  • stabilizing river banks; and
  • situations that require "instant" hedgerow growth; the latter is related mainly to planting across drainage lines during wet season (in which case the containers should be staked), or when planted in the dry season in the expectation of full hedge formation by start of next wet season (in this case hedge rows must be watered twice a week for eight weeks or until there are concrete signs that the vetiver has established). Watering is not a difficult task, particularly when hedgerows are adjacent to the structure being protected;
  • when planting vetiver in drainage lines to protect down stream structures the hedgerows should be planted at right angles to the flow of water, and the hedgerow should stretch completely across the drainage line and up the side of the banks of the drainage line; all approaches (at least 20 meters) to the structure should be lined with vetiver. Vetiver roots, because of their depth and strength will be prevent tunneling and the undermining of the structure. Below the structure drainage line banks should be protected for at least 20 meters; causeways should have at least two lines of vetiver planted close their down stream side to reduce structure damage from turbulence; and if a gully head is developing further down the drainage line bed it should be halted by a vetiver hedge row;
  • protecting the down side of culverts with vetiver hedge rows. On gentle slopes long hedgerows can be planted far enough away from the culvert exit so as to not block the culvert exit with sediment. Where the land falls way steeply blow the culvert, a number of vetiver hedge rows should be planted close to the outlet to dissipate the water velocity and to protect the culvert from gully head cut back. Note since most culvert inlets are constructed to take water from the upstream catchment as well as from the road side drains it is recommended that vetiver hedgerows are planted above the culvert to reduce water velocities and sediment flows into the culvert. Generally containerised plants should be used for culvert protection.

If the above principles are adhered to it should not be difficult to identify the length of hedgerows required by priority and plant material type (bare root or container, 1000 of each per 100 meters planted). This information together with identified planting dates will enable the designer and contractor to establish firm orders from vetiver grass suppliers.

Handling of Vetiver Grass

Vetiver grass should be planted as soon as possible after transporting from nurseries. The following steps should be taken to assure minimum mortality and maximum survival and establishment rates:

• • unless nurseries are very close to end user site it is probably best to buy good quality clumps from the nursery and prepare plugs from the clumps at the user site. Clumps, until split, should be kept in the shade and should be regularly wetted. On splitting into planting plugs (3 slips to a plug) the plugs should be kept in the shade and damp until used;

  • a clear "order" schedule should be given to the supplier of the plants, and this schedule should be regularly updated and modified where necessary;
  • drivers responsible for delivering vetiver plants should receive clear instructions on how to deliver. The truck should be covered to provide shade, and if the truck has to stop it should be parked in a shady area to prevent overheating of plant material;
  • containerized plants should be handled in a similar fashion. If large quantities of container plants are to be transported the truck should be modified so as to be able to carry more than one layer of plants;
  • dead material should not be planted;
  • where possible use farm yard manure (100 kg per 100 meters) rather than fertilizer;
  • plant in moist soil or provide supplementary water; plant at correct distance (10 cm) and depth (max. 5 cm), and "heel" in.

Vetiver Grass Nurseries

Vetiver grass can be supplied by "commercially " operated nurseries or from existing plant material from a vetiver protected site. In either case good quality plant material must be provided. The following actions should be undertaken to assure good quality supplies:

  • clear and firm contracts should be drawn up with the supplier that clearly state delivery (at nursery gate) dates, plant specifications (plugs, clumps, containers), size ( minimum number of tillers, quality, potting mixtures etc.), and of course price. At this time it is estimated that on the basis of 30 tillers per clump a bare rooted plug (3 good quality tillers per plug) should sell for FMG 20 and a container plant (10 cm x 20 cm) for FMG 300;
  • nurseries should be regularly inspected by buyer to assure that plant material is being properly managed and that plant numbers are actual rather than theory; and
  • vetiver clumps from existing vetiver sites can contain large quantities of dead material. This can be reduced by burning the vetiver at the end of the dry season in order to burn out the dead material and to encourage tillering.
  • Vetiver and Agriculture
  • Vetiver appears to grow well on both bas-fond and tenety landscapes. This augers well, and CAP clients should be encouraged to use vetiver hedgerows for soil and water conservation purposes including under some of the following conditions and uses:
  • prevention of sediment flows from lavakas onto bas-fonds. This can be achieved by planting multiple rows of vetiver across the mouth of the lavaka drainage outlets and where possible up in the labyrinth area of the lavaka;
  • prevention of sediment flows from tenety areas onto the bas-fond. This can be achieved by planting vetiver hedgerows as buffers along the interface of the bas-fond and the tenety;
  • prevention of sediment flows and velocity damaging floods within the bas-fonds by planting vetiver hedgerows across the bas-fonds at 90° to down hill flow of water;
  • stabilization of bas-fond field dikes, and drainage and irrigation channels (if planted correctly significant maintenance costs (>30%) reductions are possible through earthwork stabilization by vetiver and by shading out of weeds by vetiver;
  • on tenety lands in association with annual and perennial crops. In each case higher crop yields will result and land will be able to be farmed on a more sustainable basis.
  • vetiver hedgerows will significantly reduce soil loss (up to 90%) reduce rainfall runoff (up to 60%); will reduce the loss of organic matter and other fertility enhancement amendments such as manure and fertilizer; will recycle nutrients from depth; and will provide wind break protection to adjacent plants and will thus reduce soil evaporation rates; and will provide mulch, thatch, and fodder.
  • will recharge ground water and will improve spring flows.

Attachment 4




The following are testimonies by Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) users given during the Vetiver Users Workshop, May 24, 1996, Matalom, Leyte, Philippines. Note in this part of the Philippines vetiver is known as "Mura" or "Mora".

Prepared by Edwin Balbarino, Program Field Coordinator, FARMI, ViSCA, Baybay, Leyte, Philippines. Email: "Balbarino, Edwin" <[email protected]>

Eco-description: Steep slopes, acid soils, high rainfall, subject to cyclones, high runoff, depleted soils, deforestation, slash and burn, cassava, maize, rice, sweet potato.

Leon Pen, Barangay Chairman, Templanza, Matalom, Leyte....."I got my first Mura (Vetiver) planting materials from one of my barangay councilmen Jacinto Gerona. I planted Mura in my farm near my house. Mura is easy to plant with minimal maintenance. It grows very well and effectively controls the down flow of soil during the rainy season. At present, the contour plots of my farm have been leveled off. In addition, I am also using Mura to cure high blood pressure in my work as Tambalan (local medicine man). The only comment I have with Mura, is that my carabaos (water buffalo) do not like to eat it". (If you cut your Mura regularly, say once a month, your carabaos will love it...Ed)

Irene Pria, Officer: Rural Women Association, San Salvador, Matalom, Leyte........ "FARMI workers gave me the Vetiver planting materials in 1991. At the start (about the first 2 years of establishment) I did not practice trimming the Mura hedgerows. Then I found out that it is very strong and effective in controlling soil erosion. Now my Mura hedgerows are well maintained by trimming before flowering. Trimming the plant (during not before) is laborious because the stem is already hard. I placed the herbage along the upper portion of the hedgerows. This will help in trapping the soil during the rainy season. Other herbage is used as mulch for my sweet potato crop. I could also say that the wonderful contribution of Mura has ever given me is that it cured my thinning hair".Note: Workshop participants and friends testified that Irene really suffer balding/serious thinning of hair before. She has the formula/technique of doing it which she will share to those who are interested. ("baldies" had better get in touch with Irene....Ed).

Gertrudes Inderio, 67 years old woman-farmer, Altavista, Matalom, Leyte....... "I was the first one to adopt the planting of Mura in my barangay (village). I noticed that my contour plots have leveled 3 years after I planted Mura. I really believe its effectiveness in controlling erosion. It is easy to plant and maintain. To maintain it, I just burn the hedgerows at the end of summer and in less than 5 days re growth is already visible. I have proven it myself that Mura grow in any type of soil. I have planted 6 lines of Mura in Anapogon (calcareous soil) and it is growing very well".Note: Nang Itring’s farm has a 25-40 degrees slope.

Nemesia Purgatorio, President, Women Association, Elevado, Matalom, Leyte....... "My farm may not be as hilly as the farms of other farmers but still I notice how effective Mura is in controlling soil erosion. Once established, it is not easily killed by cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica) unlike other contour hedgerow species. Mura is easy to maintain. It does not grow anywhere except in the contour line where it is planted. I trim my Mura before planting corn or sweet potato or during land preparation. I am also using Mura as roofing materials for my Payag (animal shed)."

Rubelio Mazo, Punta, Baybay, Leyte......... "In my experience Mura is not effective unless we use the A-Frame in locating the contour line. Trimming is also very important. Mura should be trimmed before planting corn or camote to avoid "awong" (sunlight competition). If left untrimmed, there could be danger of accidental burning of the matured hedgerows when crops are still on the alleys. The herbage scattered along the hedgerow base also help in preventing the passage of soil during rainy days. Try to visit my farm, I am sure you will notice the difference between farms with Mura and farms without Mura hedgerows."

Santiago Llones, Punta, Baybay, Leyte........ "I like Mura because it is easy to establish and maintain. I do not practice trimming but instead burn my hedgerows because I observed that Mura grows more vigorously after burning. I do not believe that soil fertility is affected when Mura hedgerows is burnt. The effect of Mura could be seen in the healthy corn along the upper portion of the hedgerows. Mura does not compete with corn in sunlight and soil nutrients".

Norberto Inderio, MAFUD President, San Salvador, Matalom, Leyte........ "My contour farm is near (above) my small rainfed rice field. I have no doubt of Mura’s effectiveness in controlling soil erosion. There was a big gully in my farm before but after 4 years of planting few lines of Mura that gully is no longer visible. The only thing that makes Mura unattractive to farmers is that it seems unpalatable to animals except during long dry season when grasses are scarce. During that 7 dry months in 1992 burned Mura was not able to recover. Mura serves as a wind break of my rice and also serve as a nest for my hens. Mura should be trimmed to keep away the Maya birds from nesting on it."Note: Maya is that small red-brown bird which is considered important pest by rice farmers.

Ronie Maso, Punta, Baybay, Leyte.......... "I observed that farmers in the barangay who do not use Mura as a contour hedgerow frequently shifted farms. For me I have not shifted farms for already five years. The reason why they won’t plant Mura is that they don’t own the land they tilled. One observation I have with Mura is that it is easily dominated or overgrown by Kudzu especially if not well-managed." (Development planners, please note the importance of land tenure, or lack of it, with regard to the uptake of longer term conservation technologies; also as we have mentioned before, vetiver hedgerows combined with other practices may be the answer to "slash and burn" problems. Ed.)

Margarito Maso, Punta, Baybay, Leyte..... "I firmly believe that planting Mura grass is the most effective way to control soil erosion. I made a simple experiment on my farm by leaving a portion not contoured with Mura. In just few cropping seasons the difference in terms of soil erosion was already evident. I measured about 2 feet thickness of soil trapped at the upper base of the Mura hedges. Gullies are observed in the uncontoured portion."

Felipe Itallo, Punta, Baybay, Leyte........ "My experience with Mura is on paddy rice fields and not on upland farms. We have already been using Mura to stabilize rice field dikes several decades. It is really strong and lasts forever. It regrows even if covered with mud. Farmers just burn the Mura after harvesting to drive away rats and birds."

Bonifacia Gura, Matalom, Leyte......... "In the beginning we used rock walls as soil erosion control system in our farm. Along the rock walls we also planted Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala). After several years we eradicated the ipil-ipil because their roots are making land preparation difficult. During that time FARMI introduced Mura as contour hedgerows to control erosion. So I tried the grass as replacement of Ipil-ipil. We like Mura because it stays where it is planted. It is easy to establish and survives long droughts. One major characteristics of Mura that makes it an ideal control hedgerows is that it regrows or produces roots at the nodes making it effective as contour bands and riser stabilizer". (This latter observation is execellent, and is exactly why Mura is such an effective stabilizer...Ed.).

Concepcion Pada, San Salvador, Matalom, Leyte......... "I have not maintained (trimmed) my Mura hedgerows since planting because I fallowed my farm for 5 years. However, I noticed that the grass still exists after 5 years since it was planted. Now, my Mura hedgerows is already thick. I am planning to open my farm again and trim the Mura".

Nesias Galia, Hitoog, Matalom, Leyte......... "My farm is located below the barangay (village) road so that during heavy rains water is drained to my farm creating big gullies. As remedy, I formed contour bands and planted Mura and Napier along the bands. I observed that corn planted near the Mura produced bigger ears than those near the Napier. Napier roots runs through the alleys. The Mura hedgerows could be maintained by just cutting it at the base or stem regularly. It should be cut and cleaned regularly so that weeds such as Bokot-bokot (Micania cordata) can not dominate that would eventually kill it."

(Vetiver Newsletter #16)


By Marco Rojas, Student at the University E.A.R.T.H. (Regional Agricultural College of the Humid Tropics), Guacima - Costa Rica

Eco-description: rainfall about 1200 mm, red acidic soisl, steep soils topograophy, high erosion rates, coffee,maize,beans, tobacco, perennial horticultural crops including mangoes, lychee.

The district of Puriscal, Costa Rica, located 45 km southwest of the capital of San José, is a highly eroded region where the majority of the territory over the years was deforested in order to establish crops such as coffee and tobacco and to graze livestock. The region is predominantly of irregular topography characterized by slopes over 40% and soils with a thin or nonexistent A-horizon. Having removed the vegetative cover, the existing soils were easily eroded due to overgrazing by cattle and the lands abandoned because they were no longer productive.

In the 1980s soil conservation was included in some agricultural projects promoted by the EEC (European Economic Community). Lemon grass was promoted as a live hedge as it was supposed to have a potential to generate income based on medicinal uses of the grass. In addition to lemon grass, itabo (Yuca elephantipes) and Indian cane (Dracaena fragans var. massageana) were also introduced because of these income generating potentials as export crops. It didn’t take long for plagues and diseases to develop in these crops (lemon grass hedges were ultimately lost due to fungus and insect attack) which required increased investment to control. Additionally, the product marketing was not easy so many farmers abandoned or eliminated these crops. Also the soil retention using these plant systems was not very good and large volumes of soil were still lost through erosion. Finally, the itabo and Indian cane were intended to be monocrops in many cases rather than intercrops. Lack of market incentives thus led to their rapid abandonment.

Other systems used were hedges of king grass (Pennisetum hybridum) and dwarf elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), as well as Arachis pintoii as a vegetative cover. The grasses were not widely accepted because they spread, taking over cultivated areas.

Vetiver grass was introduced as a vegetative barrier as a soil conservation measure in these projects, by the EEC with Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) and the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines. Vetiver, known as "violeta grass" in Costa Rica, adapted well in the zone with satisfactory results. One problem encountered with the use of vetiver was that it was simply given away to the farmers who often left it to die. Nonetheless, amongst the farmers who use it, vetiver functions very well.

Feedback from users:

Mr. Edén Delgado of San Antonio comments: "It develops very quickly and in little time forms a terrace illustrating its good function. I only prune it at the end of winter at soil level and in 22 days it returns."

Mr. Victor Madrigal of San Juan community says: "This vetiver is resistant to drought, holds the soil and the remains of the pruning can be used to make ‘bocachi’ because it decomposes rapidly." (Note: Bocachi is a fermented organic material made from the food wastes, tubers and other vegetable wastes with high compositions of carbohydrates, proteins, sugars, etc. Fermenting the wastes encourages growth of microorganisms that help in decomposition which stimulates plant growth when applied to crops. The increased populations of microorganisms is beneficial to improve soil quality. In Central America it is becoming widely promoted.)

With respect to other hedges, vetiver requires less labor. Comments Mr. Darío Sarmiento of San Juan: "There have been no diseases and I have never fertilized. The results have been so good that I have decided to extend my hedges in my coffee field and put them on both sides of the terraces."

Mr. Joel Leiva of Bajo de la Legua agrees that vetiver requires little labor input and also says: "This grass grows together very quickly and when I burn it back in the summer it grows back like nothing happened."

The majority of users in the area are small farmers and vetiver is used in various crops. Mr. Antonio Mora of Bajo de La Legua tells us: "On my property I plant mostly tobacco which must always be free of weeds. I planted this violeta grass (vetiver) brought from another town in order to hold my soil. When the tobacco harvest has passed, at the start of winter I plant corn or beans to better take advantage of the land."

Furthermore, Mr. Buenaventura Vargas of Charcón adds: "I worked for a long time with lemon grass, but it spreads easily and finally it was lost. I got violeta (vetiver) at a farm close to here and planted it; with just one plant one can advance quickly. These hedges are 8 years old and the my secret of maintaining them is I do nothing more than cut them every year. You can observe my good results here."

An observation by Enrique Martínez of the Fundación Ecotrópica indicated that some farmers fertilize their vetiver thus promoting growth requiring increased labor for pruning.

One disadvantage observed with vetiver is that the pruning of hedges is hard work. The sharp-edged leaves are a problem to laborers when they are working near the hedges. Other complaints include that the hedges provide a place where snakes and rodents can nest, take up space that could be used for crop production and obstruct paths within a farm.

An unfortunate situation occurred at the Agricultural School of Puriscal where for a long time there existed vetiver hedges. Recently the hedges were dug out and removed with the justification that the labor of pruning was very difficult and its sharp leaves were leaving cuts on their laborers’ skin. The problem is that no other system or plant was used to replace the vetiver for soil conservation purposes. It is necessary for a school to set a good example and become a pioneer in soil conservation education especially since they can influence generations of farmers who will control of the destiny of the country. Vetiver is known by the majority as are its properties as a good, soil conserving plant. However, whether or not it is used for establishing barriers depends on the willingness of the farmer to do something about his/her erosion problems.

Vetiver’s use as a conservation hedge is spreading very slowly. This slow acceptance is due to the lack of farmers’ knowledge and lack of available planting material. The decision on whether or not to use vetiver is not specific to either large or small farmers and the choice of utilization varies from person to person. Vetiver is used principally for protection of coffee, tobacco, corn and beans and it also can be found protecting roads, slopes and soccer fields. The farmers need to be educated to realize the long term benefits of soil conservation. They need to be aware that any type of conservation system will require a certain amount of space and maintenance. Most importantly the farmer must be offered an alternative that requires less labor and more benefits.


"Reinhardt H. Howeler,Nguyen The Dang and Wilawan Vongkasem" E.mail:Reinhardt Howeler" <[email protected]>

Eco-description: rainfall 900 - 1200 mm, red acidic soils, high soil and nutrient depletion rates, cassava, maize, rubber

Abstract Research has identified various effective ways to reduce erosion in cassava-based cropping systems, including the use of vetiver grass contour hedgerows. However, few of these practices are presently used by farmers. To enhance the adoption of soil conservation practices by cassava farmers, a Farmer Participatory Research (FPR) methodology was used in two pilot sites each in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Indonesia to test and select the most effective practices. Farmers in Thailand and Vietnam selected vetiver grass contour barriers as one of 4-5 treatments they wanted to test on their own fields.

After harvesting all trials and discussing the results, farmers in all three villages in Vietnam selected the vetiver grass treatment as the most effective in increasing income and reducing erosion. Although in one site in Thailand the vetiver grass treatment did not result in high cassava yields or income, farmers in both sites selected the vetiver grass treatment as the most useful. In both countries, participating farmers, after seeing the benefits of vetiver grass barriers, requested additional planting material to plant on their fields.


Eco- description: rainfall 1000 mm, soils acidic, rolling to steep topography, depleted soils, serious erosion problems, coffee, maize, vegetables.

On Farm Soil & Water Conservation Measures.

Since the commencement of the project in 1989/90 season, several soil and water conservation measures were tried in the villages. These included:

  • Biological and agronomical soil conservation methods whereby contour grasslines are planted with vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) and Makarikari (Makarikariencis). Farmers are also encouraged to plant Guatemala and Napier grasses. Uncultivated grass strips and trash on contourlines were also practiced in the project’s villages.
  • Physical soil conservation methods such as Fanya Juu terraces (excavated contour bunds), cut-off drains and ridge farming were also tested. Others are gully protection measures, like the establishment of stone and brushwood check dams across gullies.
  • Integrated soil and moisture conservation methods combining two or more measures at the same time in the same area such as:
  • establishment of contour trashlines planted with Vetiver grass.
  • fanya juu terraces planted with Vetiver on the same lines.
  • grasslines with trashlines and spaced agroforestry trees.
  • for gully protection, gabions and Vetivar or Napier grass planting.
  • leaving the gullies untouched to give room for natural regeneration.

Farmers Training And Subcatchment Protection.

Before indulging in any soil and moisture conservation work, farmers in their respective villages are trained and are made aware of the erosion processes, effects of erosion and how to solve the problem by using simple and sustainable technology utilizing available materials. Farmers are becoming competent to layout contourlines and they know how to stabilize them.

Farmers’ Adoption Farmers’ response to training sessions were good while adoption rate of the technology is moderate. Todate there are more than 1600 farmers who have tried one or more of the different soil and moisture conservation measures covering an area of 530 Ha. having about 190,000 running metres of contour bunds out of which 85% are stabilised by Vetiver grass.

Soil And Water Conservation Measures Preferred By Farmers.Biological and Integrated Soil and Moisture Conservation measures establishment of vetiver contour lines, trashlines planted with Vetiver grass, Fanya Juu terrace stabilised by Vetiver, Napier or Guatemala grass.A simple evaluation made to assess why farmers have adopted these measures, farmers stated that they prefer them most, especially Vetiver hedges because the measures are simple to make, not labour intensive, the grasses form permanent protective hedge/barrier that will remain effective for many years and effectively reduces soil erosion. They also encourage improved infiltration rate as the hedgerows reduce runoff speed. Farmers claim the increase in production per unit area in well conserved farms.Farmers mentioned that vetiver grows upright and causes none or very little disturbance to the crops; terraces are easily formed, reaching 30 - 40 cm in just two to three seasons; Vetiver grows well in even drought exposed areas; rarely browsed by livestock, and is used for thatching houses and therefore some farmers earn income by selling it to their neighbours.

Prepared by S.I.E. Mgalamo, Land Use And Soil Conservation Officer, Iringa District, P.O.BOX 1187 Iringa, TANZANIA. Arif Qaraeen, HIMA Chief Technical Adviser, Iringa Region, P.O.Box 1187, Iringa, TANZANIA Telephone 2404

(Vetiver Newsletter #16)


Eco-description: high rainfall, acid soils, high ersion rates, deplted soil nutrients, coffee, maize, beans.

E1 Salvador is a Central American country with a high population density (270 people/km2), a high rate of rural poverty, intensive competition for arable land, and severe environmental problems. More than three-fourths of the national production of basic grains occurs on small farms on marginal hillside soils.

Degradation of soil and water resources affects the household income of thousands of farmers, hydroelectric systems, sources of potable water and coastal zones. There have been increased investments in soil conservation practices in response to these problems, which has created a strong national demand for vetiver.

NOBS Anti-erosion, is a private company that promotes vetiver grass for soil conservation on hillsides. Established in 1994, it works with 140 institutions on 110 projects nationwide. The main activities include the transfer of technology, and the sale of vegetative material for living hedges. These activities are implemented through aggressive communications programs and by a team of extension specialists.

A case-study is presented on the transfer of vetiver technologies by NOBS in an area in the southwest region of El Salvador. A select group of small-scale farmers was trained to grow and manage vetiver for sustainable soil conservation. The farmers were given vegetative material for two years to establish replication plots. They then began transferring vetiver technologies to their neighbors. Currently, a group of 220 farmers is testing the vetiver technologies. 71% of the farmers say that vetiver controls erosion. 18% of the farmers have observed that vetiver is increasing crop production due to increased soil moisture content. 82% of the farmers will continue using vetiver for soil conservation.

Ricardo Hernandez, William McDowell and Joaquin Santamaria. NOBS, El Slavador

(International Vetiver Grass Workshop, Fuhzou, China)

More from NOBS (Vetiver Newsletter #17)


Since it was established, NOBS has worked on nearly 90 erosion control projects in cooperation with NGOs, the Minister of Agriculture, construction companies and industry. Their involvement in such projects has ranged from promotion of vetiver hedge technology, provision of technical assistance and training, and as providers of vegetative planting material.

NOBS currently has more than 150 ha planted with vetiver grass for oil production and production of material for erosion control. Most of this farmland is privately owned or leased on the coastal plains south of Volcan Chinchontepec in San Vincente and Volcan Chaparrastique in San Miguel. The vetiver planting material for erosion control are actually a by-product of the oil production business (the entire plant must be excavated in order to harvest the roots for oil extraction) and on a yearly basis NOBS has about 80 ha of vetiver grass available for sale as planting stock.

Interestingly the cultivar which NOBS is using is one which commonly flowers, but there has been no indication that viable seed is produced because in 14 years it has not spread anywhere outside of where it was planted. What is interesting is that the north Indian vetivers are those which usually flower and their oil is known as "khus", whereas it is the south Indian vetivers which are normally used for large scale production of "vetiver" oil, and these vetivers are non-flowering. The south Indian, non-flowering types, have also generally been the preferred vetiver for use in hedges; though in north India the local vetiver is used in many erosion control programs.

The planting and harvesting of vetiver plants/roots has been semi-mechanized. A basic plow is employed to make the furrows for the planting of the new plants, which is done by hand. For the harvesting of roots one of two methods is employed depending on the site, either: (i) a subsoiler is used to dig out the plants and roots or (ii) something similar to a potato harvester is used, which digs out the plants and rotates them in a cylinder to loosen and remove soil remaining on the roots.

Practical Experience

The experience which NOBS has had with vetiver has produced some interesting results with respect to damage to the plant by insects or rodents. Leaf-cutter ants have been found to eat the leaves from newly planted vetiver, but only when planted directly on top of an existing nest. Vetiver which is planted in an area without leaf-cutter nests is not damaged or eaten. In areas of rich and fertile soils where burrowing moles are found, vetiver roots have been found to be damaged. Also in areas where cane borers are a problem in corn and sugar crops, in the very moist sites the borers have been found to lay their eggs in the vetiver, thus allowing the vetiver to become an alternate host for the cane borer. The vetiver plants themselves are not affected by the borer. (Note: this can be controlled by burning the hedges.)

For the establishment of hedges, NOBS uses 8-10 tillers planted at 8-10 cm apart . This ensures that a hedge is quickly and successfully established decreasing the chances of gaps forming in the hedge. At NOBS they stress that in order to establish successful vetiver hedges strict guidelines must be established and followed which includes: use of good quality planting material, proper handling for the excavation, transport and planting, and follow-up maintenance of the plants to include irrigation and gap-filling as needed. They have devised methods to irrigate roadside plantings with a power sprayer attached to a truck for periodical watering until the plants are well established. NOBS estimated the costs in US dollars per unit (8-10 tillers) of planting material at approximately $US$ 0.06 - 0.07/plant in El Salvador.


Government and private construction companies have been NOBS’ main clients to date. They have planted 300 km of vetiver hedges along the roadsides and slopes of El Salvador. In 1996 operations were expanded to try to increase the use of vetiver hedges, particularly for use among the most popular crops (which are also the most erosive) such as corn, sorghum, and beans on slopes greater than 5%. Approximately 80% of El Salvador’s cultivated land area is used for the cultivation of these lands

In El Salvador, NOBS has worked to promote the vetiver technology with: the Minister of Agriculture, the president of the Hydroelectric Power Commission, the National Water Authority, the Minister of Public Works, the Private and National Banking Systems, the National Environmental Secretariat, and a large number of environmental NGOs.

Recently, the Government of El Salvador opened a soil conservation credit line through the banking system with 6% interest rates and 15-year paybacks. NOBS is promoting this as an opportunity to establish as many vetiver hedges as possible. The total amount of credit available is about $US 10,000,000.

After a presentation made by NOBS to the board of directors of Banco de Fomento Agropecuario (BFA) (government bank that basically works with the small farmers), they adopted reforms to their credit pre-requisites such as "...previous to any credit approval the farmer should show proof of some soil conservation application in his/her plot. This could be dead barriers, pineapple, izote, lemongrass, vetiver, or simply organic debris...". This bank services approximately 11,000 small farmers. Approximately 210 agronomists from BFA have been trained by NOBS in vetiver technology and they also have assigned 3 of their own technicians to work within the field offices.

In coordination with the National Environmental Secretariat, NOBS conducted three 1-day seminars for the six major universities, 30 NGOs, and all the secretariat technicians involved in the approval and financing of ecological projects under the Americas Initiative Program.


Included in NOBS’ efforts have been nationwide radio announcements on 15 radio stations which promote the use of vetiver on lands where basic grains are grown. The radio campaign is oriented towards the small farmer and designed to educate them in the use of vetiver technology. Additionally, they have published articles in the national press on the soil erosion problem in El Salvador and the use of vetiver to deal with it. Also a promotional booklet with drawings has been developed for small farmers to explain the problem of soil erosion and how vetiver hedges can be used to control the loss of soil and improve crop production. Vetiver roots are never mentioned to farmers as having any use or value because there is too great a risk that individuals will start excavating the plants for the roots thus defeating the purpose of using vetiver for erosion control.

To help convince potential users of the profound rooting depth of vetiver plants they have grown vetiver in a model which displays the rooting system. A length of PVC pipe several meters long, was cut open and the open side replaced with clear plastic, filled with soil and planted with a vetiver tiller; after several months the vetiver roots in the model were so long that they grew out of the bottom of the tubing. Also they have built a model similar to that at the USDA which shows water ponded behind a clump of vetiver.

In an attempt to increase the uses of vetiver NOBS has recommended using vetiver leaves for roofing thatch, mulch, and brooms. In addition, they have given leaves and roots (from which oil has already been extracted) to a European company which produces banana leaf papers to see whether they could also use vetiver "by-products" in their paper products.


Eco-description: undulating lands, upland rice, rainfall about 800 mm.

We would like to express our appreciation for your excellent service by the provision of the Vetiver Newsletter.

The reason for not having contributed any items for publication has been that our project has very limited staff (8) and a multitude of diverse tasks related to food security while trying to restore the environment, leaving little time for corresponding.

Our approach to cover the area of 112 villages in 6 districts has been through partnership with all relative extension workers, government or N.G.Os individual farmers, but significantly, the schools

The start of our increased emphasis on the use of Vetiver grass throughout the region came after having planted bunds with vetiver grass on a farmers plot which never yielded anything worthwhile before. Surrounding farmers, having seen the dramatically positive result, made requests for the technology and the project has been demand driven ever since.

Another contributing factor for increased demand was that word went rapidly around after a series of district wide workshops for village leaders which included a video of a community which collectively built bunds allowing them to put 34.6 ha of land under upland rice cultivation. The video also recorded the visit of the Minister of Agriculture, who remarked it was the largest upland rice area he had ever seen. The concept of making the bunds permanent with Vetiver was made clear in the video although not all the bunds had been planted.

Propagation of Vetiver grass was started with a small nursery at a school site where the grass was originally planted for decorative purposes. Two project sites were added, and more schools were involved with varying rates of success. At the moment, funding for Vetiver propagation has been secured, and some extra stock which was acquired in anticipation half a year ago has been multiplied for use in other nursery sites. We are combining both the partnerships with farmers, multiplying the grass through planting on the bunds, as well as establishment of new nurseries.

We are still in the dark about the cultivars. We thought we had been using a local variety and went out of our way to acquire some we were told was V. zizanioides. It does not look any different! We did see a variety growing wild in large quantities up country which looks distinctly different. As we anticipate the demand for planting stock to outstrip our capability to supply, we will have to consider using it. Shade tolerance is not a major concern for upland farmland as it is mostly denuded.

G.van de Meeberg, Project advisor, St. Joseph’s Family Farm Project, Catholic Mission Bwiam) , PO. Box 165, BanjuI, The Gambia. Ph/Fax: 220489050, E-mail [email protected]


Eco-description: Rainfall about 1200 mm, rolling to steep topography red acidic soils, high levels of aluminium toxicity, serious erosion, depleted soil nutrient status— Tea, citrus, cassava, maize, rice

Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) planted in lines along contour furrows in sloping citrus groves of red soil grew and developed quickly and vigorously with an annual yield of fresh plant matter of about 15t/hm2. The grass was cut and used as a mulch to cover the surface soil under the citrus trees such that the air temperature and soil temperature in the citrus groves were both effectively decreased. At the same time, the relative humidity and moisture content of the soil both increased during periods of high temperatures and drought. In the summer, the strong solar radiation was partly shaded by the vetiver grass fence. There were remarkable benefits in water and soil conservation, as well as improvement in soil structure and fertility. The soil bulk density decreased, while its porosity, pH, organic matter contents, total N, hydrolytic N, available P and K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, Mo and 20 kinds of amino acids all increased. The citrus trees, therefore, also grew and developed vigorously. Some new information was provided for regional development and comprehensive utilization of red soil resources to obtain sustainable high yields, superior citrus quality, and efficient productivity with low cost in southern China.

Chen Kai and Hu GuoQin

(Department of Horticulture, NanJing University of Agriculture,

NanJing, 210014)

Rao HuiMao, Xu LinHua and Wu HuaQing

(County’s Office of Foreign Capital Projects, LinChuan, JiangXi Province)




Eco-description: Rainfall about 1200 mm, rolling to steep topography red acidic soils, high levels of aluminium toxicity, serious erosion, depleted soil nutrient status— Tea, citrus, cassava, maize, rice

In 1989, Mr Richard G. Grimshaw introduced vetiver grass to us as an excellent plant for soil conservation. Then the trials were conducted in the project area in Chongren, Jinxi, Linchuan, Dongxiang, Jinxian, Guixi Counties, and Provincial Animal Husbandury and Breeding Farm, Provincial Red Soil Research Institute. The grass was planted for more than 200 hectares under different ecological conditions. They all grew well even on extreme soils and could stand drought, submerging, burning, animal feeding. Besides, the grass was characterized by very high biomass and strong capability of stabilizing soils and water conservation. In order to extend vetiver technology, since 1990 vetiver nurseries for over 20 hectares were established on paddy field, upland red soils, and sand bars, accompanied by multiple experiments and researches such as reproduction technology, the effects of vetiver on soil conservation, effect of vetiver mulch on soil water maintenance, the use of vetiver as fodder, the effect of extremely infertile soils on the growth of the grass, etc. The vetiver technology was not only extended to most of the counties in Jiangxi Province but also to neighboring provinces. In 1993 the contour planting vetiver hedges were identified as an most efficient new technology and most important component in agroforestry systems recorded in the Evaluation Document of Red Soil Project involving in 5 Provinces as Jiangxi, Fujian, Zhejiang, Hunan, and Guangxi.

Up to the end of 1996, the contour planting vetiver hedges were widely established in the 43 watersheds in 19 counties or provincial farms through the Red Soil Project (2nd phase) in order to control the serious soil erosion. With progress of the project, the ecological and economical benefits of the vetiver is becoming more and more obvious and considerable. Based on statistics, there were 20,000 ha of red soil land protected by the grass through the Red Soil Project in Jiangxi Province. T he unique function of the grass is now being recognized by more and more government officers and farmers. It is believable that the grass will be extended more widely and quickly in southern China.

Hu Jianye, Red Soil Project Office of Jiangxi Province, Nanchang 330002, China

Vetiver as a Component of World Relief’s Sustainable Agriculture Program in Nicaragua

Since the 1960s, the southern Atlantic region of Nicaragua has been undergoing a transformation as its tropical forests are reduced to small forest fragments. The primary cause of forest losses has been the clearing and burning of forest lands along the advancing agricultural frontier. This in turn has been fueled by the in-migration of large numbers of landless campesinos, and the common use of inappropriate farming practices in the region.

World Relief’s agricultural program in Nicaragua works with subsistence farmers in two regions of the Southern Atlantic - Nuevo Guinea and the Río San Juan. The elevation ranges from 0 - 250 m above sea level and average rainfall varies from 2000 mm per year inland and increases towards the coast to an average of 5500 mm. Annual evaporation in the region varies between 500 mm to 1500 mm per year and temperatures range from 23º to 36º C, the months between March and May being hottest.

In general the clay soils are inappropriate for both agriculture and raising cattle. Until the 1960s, this region of humid tropical forest was sparsely inhabited. Those small farmers colonizing in these zones soon found that crop yields declined rapidly and were not economically viable. Thus farmers moved on to other lands and sold their farms to the expanding cattle ranches. Regardless, until the 1980s the population continued to increase and economic conditions improved as a result of the cattle ranching, the production of basic food crops, and through investment by government and donors in projects (non-sustainable) that helped develop the zone agriculturally.

After the revolution of the 1980s, this area was hit hard by the civil war and much of the population was concentrated in small communities, became refugees in Costa Rica, or were involved in both sides of the conflicting parties of the civil war. The ongoing war allowed the existing forests to remain untouched while other areas were able to regenerate to secondary growth. Unfortunately in 1988, Hurricane Joan destroyed much of the remaining forest cover in many of the areas.

After the end of the war and the change in government in 1990, large numbers of refugees began to return to the area putting heavy pressure on the poor, non-productive land. The Nicaraguan government has several projects and plans on paper to assist farmers to increase the sustainability of agriculture in the zone and to conserve forest reserve areas. Nonetheless, few of these projects are actually operating.

The goal of the World Relief program was to assist 2,600 farmers and their families to protect natural resources on their farms and improve sustainable crop yields in order to attain food security and steadily increase incomes. This was to be accomplished via three principle components. 1) Change agricultural practices to protect and improve soils and introduce crops (perennial) which were more suited to the zone; 2) Post-harvest management; and 3) Educating women in nutrition, horticulture and gardening, and food preparation to address nutritional deficiencies.

Migratory agriculture and its associated negative impacts on the environment was the main obstacle to overcome. The cultivation of basic grains (rice, corn and beans) that constituted the basic part of the diet and income of the campesino family resulted in continued movement on agricultural land year to year. Along with inappropriate farming practices, soil fertility declined rapidly which worsened yields in each cropping cycle. Small farmers were thus forced to sell their land to large landowners for their extensive cattle ranches and migrate into areas of forest reserve which has lead to the reduction of tropical forest.

When World Relief started working in the region in 1993, we tried to implement the same types of program activities used in the dry tropics where farmers had small parcels of land of 1 to 5 manzanas. Initially, the main activities included the construction of physical engineering works (drainage ditches) reinforced with live barriers of pineapple, lemon grass and Taiwan grass. Also, the use of green manures such as frijol terciopelo, canavalia, gandul, etc. were inlcuded for soil recuperation.

Soon it was discovered that these activities were not sufficient and the farmers avoided further soil conservation activities. The construction of drainage ditches on terraces required labor for construction and maintenance that the farmers and their families could not provide. The problem was that the small farmers in these areas had relatively large pieces of land (30 - 50 manzanas) and the available labor per area of land was significantly lower than that the farmer of the dry tropics who had only 1 to 5 manzanas. Furthermore, the plant species being used for live hedges were not acceptable. Pineapple did not function well as a hedge and it wasn’t being managed by the farmers. Lemon grass with its poor rooting system and susceptibility to attack by insects and diseases was not a better alternative. In many cases, Taiwan grass was a problem. It worked well if maintained, but unmanaged it became an invasive weed which was difficult to control. Again, it was a mistake not to consider the difference in agricultural practices of the area. In the dry tropics where the farmers have little land and need a supply of grass, Taiwan grass worked well because the farmer maintained it by cutting to feed to his cattle. But in the area of the World Relief Program, the quantities of available fodder exceeded the needs of the families due to their larger parcels and the dramatic reduction of the cattle herds due to the war.

After some thought, a program better adapted for soil conservation and improvement was developed. This took into consideration the following factors: type of soil (texture and structure), rainfall, degree of slope, amount of labor and agricultural practices in the zone, and erosion process (hydrologic or wind). We began to plan a new conservation strategy that was appropriate for the characteristics of the zone. It was decided to redirect activities from physical engineering works towards the establishment of live hedges and wind breaks. In addition, the promotion of annual green manures and alley cropping with leguminous trees would be continued. To avoid the problems experienced with the original species, it was necessary to search for a new species of hedge plant that was strong, established rapidly and required low maintenance. The only plant discovered with these characteristics was vetiver.

In March of 1994 we started working with vetiver obtained from CATIE (Center for Agricultural Technology and Training) in Costa Rica. We started by establishing demonstration plots with hedges that would serve as a source of planting material to supply the project area and other regions. Eight months after the establishment of the first hedges we started to harvest material and establish plots demonstrating other uses. Establishment on slopes and stream banks and dams were very successful. Without other methods, we succeeded in stabilizing large masses soil that were threatening to slide.

Based on our initial positive experiences, a year later we started harvesting and distributing vetiver plants to participating farmers, focusing principally on the use of vetiver in the following activities: 1) As a live hedge established on a double or single row with 15 cm spacing between plants and 25 cm between rows; 2) As a material to strengthen slopes or sides of gullies, streams and drainage ditches; 3) As check dams spaced 3 meters apart, combined with stone walls and embankments to stabilize gullies.

We promoted these activities because they were successful in our trials and we were confident in their results. Since we had no other technical information, bibliographies and further experiences we decided not to implement other alternatives. One of the major limitations we encountered in developing a program based on vetiver grass was the limited supplies of planting material. We then sent out all our technicians to search the entire region for material and were surprised to find vetiver in the zone. Although quantities were still limited that there was enough material with which to continue our program.

At that time some of the farmers selected centrally located access points to distribute vetiver to farmers to establish more demonstration plots for erosion control and multiplication. The road is long, but the first tries were solid, as one of our farmers said "the root of this vetiver grass is so deep that in order to pull out a clump you need not only a good tool, but a real man".

Vetiver grass has demonstrated that it is an undeniable success for its ability to control erosion, representing one of the most viable and accessible alternatives to the small farmer in the fight against erosion.

Some of the pioneer farmers in the establishment of vetiver grass were don José Gómez, Ramón Reyes Mejía, Fausto Aguijar García, who have their farms in the Cerro Las Maravillas in the Department Río San Juan. From this small group, vetiver planting material has been shared with 2,600 farmers between the two project areas.

The zone of Maravillas is characterized by an irregular topography with slopes ranging between 22 and 28%. It is an area which suffered indiscriminate clearing where in some places the soils have practically disappeared and bedrock is exposed. Farmers in such areas felt helpless and without immediate alternatives to provide for their families.

The process has been slow, but the results are tangible. Starting with soils which were depleted by poor farming practices and subjected to washing away during high intensity rainfall. some soils have actually regained some of their fertility and are producing basic grains, cacao, coffee, cinnamon, and fruits among other crops with good yields. The key to success was the combination of a conservation program which utilized vetiver, leguminous cover crops and perennial crops that have returned to the environment part of what had been lost.

As the farmers say, "it’s a wonder to live on this hill, to enjoy the vista and life which comes from producing crops, and knowing that the children are growing up with hope for a better future".


Eco-description: Rainfall about 900mm rolling to steep lands, massive erosion problems, depleted soils, maize, beans.

Programa Para Control De La Erosion Y Restauración De Los Suelos de Oaxaca (PCERS). began in mid-1995 as a network of independent governmental and non government organizations. It objective is to stimulate the participation of communities and grass roots NGOs in order to implement a statewide program in Oaxaca of soil and moisture conservation, and to provide organizational, information exchange, and training and research backstopping to that program. In the two years since it was initiated, PCERS has grown from 12 to 23 participating organizations and is operating in 18 communities. Their goal for 1997 is to reach 30 participating organizations, operating in 33 communities. While still very early days, their first two years have been remarkably successful both in organizational terms — raising funds, bringing together and organizing disparate groups and interests to contribute toward a common goal; and in technical terms — introducing a new technology, involving communities to establish nurseries, farmers to establish verification trials in their fields, NGOs to test a new technology in their field programs, and researchers to carry out basic adaptation trials.

PCERS strategy comprises a two-stage approach: in stage one they are concentrating on developing their institutional and technical frameworks in order to have the capacity and experience necessary to expand into a statewide program for soil and moisture conservation. Stage two will be the expansion into a statewide program. In this first stage, the development of the technical program is based on the introduction and promotion of vetiver grass barriers for soil and moisture conservation. Vetiver was selected due to the positive experience internationally, which gave them confidence that it could provide a broadly applicable technology under Oaxacan conditions with high potential for success. Their vetiver program serves as a practical training ground for developing PCERS. In stage two, they will utilize their established farmer-community-technician-researcher links to diversify the technical menu for both on- and off-farm soil and moisture conservation activities. The intent is to ultimately develop a technical offering based primarily on systems and plants native to the region, supported by vetiver as necessary.

The organizational structure of PCERS is unique and its future development bears watching. It is a voluntary grouping or network of communities, campesino (farmer) organizations, NGOs, local governments, state and federal line agencies and research institutions. Each member is autonomous, raising their own funds and implementing their own conservation-related activities. Participation in PCERS provides access to technical information, training, information interchange (including both research backstopping and farmer adaptation/ verification), and improved access to potential cooperators who can assist in implementing the individual entities activities.

As mentioned previously, PCERS first two years have been remarkably successful in organizational and technical terms. Currently there are no significant technical obstacles to the expansion of the first stage vetiver program; technically, PCERS is in good shape. Their greatest challenges at this moment are institutional. Four elements which will be key to survival and which require attention in the short term are:

  • participation - in order to maintain relevancy, more significant interchange is needed at the technical and operational planning-levels with farmer organizations.
  • sustaining the autonomy and independence of the program and its participants - as the program grows and captures more resources there will be a natural increase in political interests from outside the program and inevitable power struggles within. The program’s strength and that which might allow it to maintain its identity, is the fact that the individuals members association is based on mutual interests and benefits. To play to this strength, a better understanding needs to be developed among participants over roles and responsibilities, benefits which would accrue through participation; also some improvement in the transparency (and thus, accountability) of the program’s decision-making apparatus is warranted .
  • formalizing the program’s system for interchange of technical information among participants and training - the diverse activities of PCERS participants is now generating substantial experiences and practical information which needs to be captured, synthesized and distributed in a more systematic fashion. In addition, the current approach to training is more "information interchange and awareness" oriented, versus a practical program to train trainers and provide hands-on training to farmer-technicians and campesino organizations.
  • development of a mechanism to financially sustain PCERS - as each participant is autonomous and raises their own funds, PCERS only costs are those associated with organizational needs (especially, ensuring adequate participation of communities and campesino representatives), promotion and information exchange, and training. In addition, PCERS also has the potential to naturally evolve into an entity which assists its members to develop proposals and obtain financing from other sources. The current approach to fundraising is ad hoc and risks creating "donor fatigue" in the very near future.

Jim Smyle, RUTA, Costa Rica.

Attachment 5

The Establishment of Nurseries, Popagation of Vetiver Grass and Associated "Experimentation" in Madagascar


  • Nursery planning

In Madagascar users (farmers and construction companies) will require planting material to be available during the wet season which for most of the country is from November to April. This is the time when it is best to establish vetiver hedges without having to resort to watering the plant. Field planting outside this period (i.e. during the dry season) will normally need supplementary watering.

Planting material can be obtained from existing on farm supplies by splitting existing vetiver hedgerows or from vetiver nurseries. In Madagascar most of the planting material will initially be produced by nurseries.

Thus most nurseries will need to plan their timetable to meet a rainy season demand. There will however be a demand in the dry season for plant material to meet some special needs. These needs include dry season planting by road contractors who can provide supplementary watering at the time of planting; planting in year round wet areas such as gully bottoms, river banks etc.; and by nursery operators who have access to irrigation who wish to set up new nurseries or expand existing ones.

This means that there will be two types of nurseries: (a) a fully irrigated nursery that can supply all year round vetiver plant material, and (b) seasonal nurseries that can supply plant material only during the wet season.

Year round nurseries should, if properly managed, be able to produce from 700 to 800 planting slips per square meter of nursery per year. Single cycle nurseries should produce 300 to 400 planting slips per square meter. Note when planted at the final user site 30 slips per linear meter of hedge row will be required. Thus 1 square meter of nursery should be sufficient for 10 to 15 meters of hedge row. 1 ha of nursery could supply sufficient planting material for establishing 100 to 150 km of vetiver hedgerow.

  • Nursery site location

i The site should be located as close as possible to the expected sales (user) area. Where possible nursery produced plants should be planted at the final site of application on the same day of lifting from the nursery.

ii Where possible the nursery should be located on a sandy loam soil near a water source that can be used for supplementary irrigation if needed. An ideal site is on a sandy river bank terrace, with a high water table. Once vetiver roots get into the water table growth is very rapid.

  • Nursery Management (see attachment 1 for more information)

i Nursery technology and operations should be applied correctly in order to obtain maximum multiplication rates per square meter of nursery. In areas where there are good all round growing conditions (hot tropical areas with sustained temperatures above 25° C) one should expect a minimum of two multiplication cycles per year (the second cycle will be possible if irrigation is available). Each cycle should produce 40 to 50 tillers (planting slips). This equates to approximately 300 to 400 slips per square meter of nursery.

ii Nursery should be deep ploughed or dug. There is no need to create raised beds. Vetiver can be planted on the flat.

iii During land preparation apply generous (25 t/ha) quantities of farmyard manure (FYM) or compost. Apply basal dressing of N & P (e.g. 250 kg/ha Diammonium Phosphate).

iv Plant vetiver slips (see para x below) after good rains (alternatively irrigate) when the soil is saturated with water.

v Plant 2-3 good quality (do not plant "dead material") slips (each tiller should have about 5 cm of root and 20 of leaf) on the square at 30 cm x 30 cm. Bury 3 cm of tops (the white area at the base of the leaf) in ground. Heel in well and water (preferably) immediately. DO NOT PLANT TOO DEEP.

vi Hand weed nursery as and when necessary.

vii If irrigation is available irrigate nursery regularly (say every 3 - 4 days) to maintain adequate soil moisture) especially where rainfall is erratic.

viii Measure (using measurement sticks) plant growth vertically and horizontally; count and record number of tillers at time of harvesting; At the beginning of the fourth month prune leaves to 30 cm (to promote tillering), and there after prune once a month.

ix Observe, identify and record pest and disease incidence.

x When the plant has 40 to 50 tillers dig clump from nursery (assuming that there is a demand at that time). The roots should be trimmed to about 5 cm and the leaf should be trimmed to about 15 - 20 cm. Each clump should be divided into sub-clumps, each comprising 3 slips.

xi Where possible (but not essential) maintain daily records of rainfall precipitation and other climatic data of interest, but this is not essential.


It is considered appropriate that during the introductory phase of CAP’s vetiver program the nurseries should also be treated as simple "experimental" and "learning" plots. The following lists those issues that should be addressed in order to establish a vetiver management data base under different site and climatic conditions in Madagascar. The information obtained will allow the systematic development of standards for nursery management, production of plant material, and the application of the technology at user sites in Madagascar. Nursery managers, users, and research agencies should be encouraged to work together in this area.

Note: The experimenting and testing recommended below should be seen as a supplement to the large amount of knowledge that has already been accumulated world wide with regard to the vetiver technology. Results of this learning and experimentation would further supplement this knowledge, and should in no way be construed as a barrier to the immediate application of the vetiver technology in Madagascar.

It should be noted that the vetiver grass used in Madagascar is the domesticated variety of Vetiveria zizanioides which has been used for aromatic oil extraction. This cultivar is expected to have exactly the same genetic composition (verified by DNA analysis) as that being used world wide for soil and water conservation and engineering purposes. Bearing the foregoing in mind the following experimentation may be warranted:

i Soil Moisture. Develop appropriate standards and parameters for supplementary watering.

ii Establishment. Under tropical conditions vetiver becomes well established very rapidly, e.g. in 6 months. The length of period to established maturity (harvesting) needs to be established under the different climatic and locations in Madagascar.

iii Root Growth. It would be valuable to determine root growth performance under different conditions.

iv Flowering and Seeding. V. zizanioides rarely flowers in Madagascar and if it produces seeds they are sterile. This should be verified.

v Pests and Diseases. Vetiver has attracted few pests and diseases elsewhere and apparently does not harbor pests or diseases harmful to other plants. These factors need to be carefully monitored under Madagascar conditions.

vi New or alternative multiplication techniques may need to be tested. See Attachment 2 from China that describes Chinese experimentation in this area.

  • Other experiments and trials that may or may not be associated with nurseries, but might be undertaken by nursery managers and/or others at nearby sites.

i Fire Resistance. Vetiver has been shown to be very resistant to fire damage and even to act as a firebreak. Trials need to be established to determine the performance of vetiver under fire hazard. In particular, comparison needs to be made of the performance of vetiver to recover from fire when properly managed (i.e. trimmed once or twice per annum to 30-50 cm ) as against untrimmed.

ii Planting intervals. For rapid and effective (no gap) hedgerow establishment planting distance standards need to be verified. The current standard planting interval is 10 - 15 cm between planting points (stations) with 3 slips planted at each station. Closer planting distances mat be more effective, but will be more costly.

iii Weed ingress. Elsewhere weeds, rhizomatous and stoloniferous grasses have difficulty in penetrating vetiver hedges. This needs establishing and demonstrating under Madagascar conditions.


vi Longevity. There are some reports from elsewhere of vetiver hedge row die-back but these are linked to specific problem conditions (normally on shallow soils located in areas with less than 700 mm annual rainfall). It is important to determine the extent that vetiver can survive in the dry extreme south of Madagascar.

vii Climatic. Determination of resistance of vetiver under Madagascar conditions to frost and drought.

vii Management practices. Whilst, in general, under field conditions vetiver would neither receive irrigation nor fertilizer there may be circumstances where these are available, particularly irrigation. It would be valuable to determine relative growth performance under field conditions of irrigated and non-irrigated hedgerows. It would also be useful to know more about the management practice of regular cutting of leaves for fodder. In some countries vetiver hedgerows are burnt once a year to clean out dead matter. Is this practice needed in Madagascar, and if so, what should be the standards

viii Rodents. There are varied reports as to whether rodents are attracted to or repelled by vetiver grass. This can be best observed under field conditions.

ix Wildlife. In general, cultivated vetiver has never been a problem to wildlife. In fact it is the reverse. It is reported that vetiver provides good protection for birds and mammals. Observations of the impact of vetiver on wildlife in Madagascar would be useful.

x Engineering applications. There are valuable applications for vetiver within engineering contexts and appropriate and current practices need to be continually upgraded to meet changing and new circumstances under field conditions. These applications can include; protection of dams (walls, spillways, surrounds and within walls against lap erosion); highway and railway embankments, cuttings, culverts, bridge abutments etc.; and protection of waste product deposits of high toxicity (e.g. municipal dumps).

xi Application of vetiver to forestry plantations. Such issues as shade tolerance, proximity to trees of different species, management routines (e.g. trimming) and fire control management need to be assessed for use of vetiver in stabilizing soils, controlling erosion and retaining soil moisture under conditions of afforestation.

xii In Madagascar there are certain unique situations that need further investigations in order to improve the application of the technology. This is of particular importance to those areas that have lavaka type erosion.

xiii Economics. It is important to determine accurate costings for field application of vetiver under different circumstances, e.g. dam protection, engineering protection works, agricultural land protection, and forestry protection.

xiv Pasture improvement. The use of vetiver hedges for limiting soil erosion and reducing water run-off leading to improved pasture production on rolling, degraded pasture lands needs to be assessed.

xv Ground water. The impact of vetiver on ground water recharge in relation to rural water supplies, stream flows etc.

xvi Other vetiver varieties. Given Madagascar’s great biodiversity, there may well be other varieties of the genus Vetiveria that are native to Madagascar. A botanical review should be undertaken to determine if such varieties exist.

Attachment 6

Nursery Establishment for Vetiver Plants

The following notes are extracts from articles available through the Vetiver Network. Mostly, extracts have been made from articles published by Dr. P.K. Yoon of Malaysia.

These notes have been assembled in note form to provide an easy reference guide to nursery establishment. However, readers are advised to refer to the detailed articles for fuller explanations. References, with page numbers, provided relate to: World Bank Technical Paper No 273 printed in 1995 (WB#273); US National Research Council’s Board on Science and Technology for International Development’s publication ‘Vetiver Grass, A thin Green Line against Erosion’ (BOSTID); and Newsletters numbered as shown.

Planting Material

  • Eject planting material from older plants that have flowered/seeded and which have less vigour

(WB#273, p.150)


  • Rich, well-drained, sandy soil best. Sandy soil aids lifting of slips (WB#273, p.17)

Planting (in beds)

  • Beds should be 30 cm high; 68 cm wide; and 45 cm edge to edge (WB#273, p.18)
  • Spacing between and within furrows should be 40 cm (WB#273, p.44)
  • Plant 2-3 tillers in 25-20 cm furrow, 30 x 40 cm or 30 x 30 cm (WB#273, p.135)
  • Bury 2 cm of tops in ground (WB#273, p.152)
  • Cut roots from source material clumps at 20 cm.; cut leaves about 30 cm.
  • Plant 2-3 slips per hole, 5-8 cm deep
  • Keep beds weeded

Planting (in polybags)

  • Plant in 2 rows of 2 polybags, 1m between rows (WB#273, p.157)
  • Plant 3-5 tillers per pot (WB#273, p170)
  • Best size of polybag is 5" x 7" or 4" x 6" (WB#273 p.156 & p.171)
  • Survival rate in polypots should be 100% and growth should be faster (Newsletter #13, p6)
  • After 3-4 months in a polybag one can expect an yield of say 15-25 tillers/pot (Newsletter#14, p22; & WB#273, p.44)


  • Use FYM (Farmyard manure, from pigs is best) at rate of 25 tons/ha (WB#273, p.44) with inoganic fertiliser at the rate of 241 kg/ha 13-13-13 (WB#273, p.152)
  • Apply Diammonium Phosphate at rate of 250 kg/ha (WB#273, p.44)
  • Split dose applications are beneficial e.g. 50-125 kg/ha at 45, 75 and 105 day intervals (WB#273, p44)


  • The herbicide Atrazine can be safely used at the rate of 1.5 kg/ha (WB#273, p. 44 and p.153)
  • Avoid risk of wind-drift from undesirable chemicals such as Paracol (WB#273, p153)
  • Roundup, Fusilade and Setholxidimate kill vetiver (WB#273, p.153)


  • Irrigation is essential (if rainfall is erratic during rainy season) and should be applied every 4-5 days for the first two months (WB#273, p.44)

Pests & Diseases

  • For grub and white ant control use 25 kg/ha BHC (WB#273, p44)
  • Sticky worm can be controlled by contact insecticide (WB #273, p.153)


  • Prune monthly but not below 2 ½ feet or 30-50 cm (Newsletter #16, p.34)
  • Trimmings can be used for mulch (WB#273, p.44)
  • Prune/trim when soil moisture is good (WB#273, p.44)


  • Plants at 4 months have good roots for transplanting (WB#273, p170)
  • In Malaysia plants were ready for transplanting in the field after 2 months in the nursery (WB#273, p.156)
  • Divide the clump for field planting when it has more than 20 tillers (WB#273, p.16)
  • Leave 3-4 tillers for continued growth (WB#273, p.16)


  • Eject poor quality sub-standards, i.e. 15-20% of plants produced (WB#273, p.154)
  • At six months , 1 ha of nursery will produce a minimum of 1.25 million bare rooted vetiver slips, i.e. enough for about 42 km of hedge, if planted at 3 slips per station, each station 10 cm apart (WB#273, p.256)
  • As an example of yield potential 16,000 plantlets were produced from an original clump of 57, i.e. a multiplication factor of about 280:1 (WB#273, p.40)
  • 1 ha of irrigated and fertilised nursery can produce enough slips for 150 km hedge or 450 ha (BOSTID, p.68)
  • As a general rule of thumb a well managed vetiver nursery should have a multiplication factor of not less than 100:1 (WB#273, p.5)
  • Yield from 1 ha with 15% cull was sufficient for 110 - 167 km hedge in Malaysia
  • The yield from a two plant row in Malaysia was 20 - 21 tillers per plant (WB#273, p.155)

2nd July, 1997

Prepared by Mike Pease, Vetiver Coordinator, Portugal

Attachment 7

Observations and Experiments on the Multiplication, Cultivation, and Management of Vetiver Grass Conducted in China in the l950’s

Xia Hanping (South China Institute of Botany, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China)

Abstract This paper systematically summarizes observations and experiments on methods to rapidly multiply vetiver conducted in China in the 1950’s. Besides the general practice of propagation by division of roots, other successful propagation methods developed from experiments included: 1) multiplication by stem-culm cuttings, 2) multiplication by pedicel-culm cuttings, 3) multiplication by longitudinal-slit stems, and 4) multiplication through pruning tops. New cultivation techniques were developed that promoted rapid field establishment included: 1) water-cultivation for accelerating roots, 2) heeling-in for improved root establishment , 3) dipping roots, 4) retaining mother tillers left in soil, and 5) oblique planting. Management measures that enhanced tillering rates had: 1) intensive cultivation and strengthening management, 2) proper pruning, 3) and rational close planting. Obviously, these successful multiplication, cultivation, and management methods can play an instructive and reference role for the similar work in the future.

Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) was introduced to China in the middle 1950’s. At that time, some multiplication, cultivation and management experiments on this plant were conducted in China. The purpose for introducing vetiver was for the production of Essential Oil from vetiver roots. Seedlings for propagation were scarce; so experiments were undertaken concentrating on two aspects: first, on the rapid multiplication of seedlings , and secondly on breeding roots that yielded oil of high quality and content. This paper summarizes the research and the results


The first introductory paper Oil vetiver was published in the magazine of Tropical Crops (in Chinese) in 1957, whose title was just "Vetiveria zizanioides". This paper covered in detail five different aspects of vetiver: 1) production; 2) the plant; 3) multiplication and cultivation; 4) harvest and processing; and 5) characteristic of vetiver oil. There are several points worth mentioning in this article. They are: China’s vetiver was introduced from Indonesia in 1956. (It has been widely believed that China’s vetiver was from India).

The undomesticated vetiver had been found in Hainan Island of China. (As a matter of fact, there was a much larger area, approximately 6,000-7,000 ha, of wild vetiver communities, maybe Vetiveria nigritana, found in Guangdong by South China Institute of Botany in 1957.)

Vetiver roots are 3-4 mm in diameter, and 1-1.5 m deep. It can produce dry roots 100-150 kg per mu (one-fifteenth hectare) 1 year after planting, from which can be refined 2-3 kg vetiver oil.

Vetiver grass is rarely seeds, and is mainly replicated by vegetative propagation. Prior to planting their tops should be pruned to about 20 cm, and the number of tillers per slip should be 2-3.

The plant generally performs better in free and well drained soils, and best in young soils developed from volcanic ash. The oil content will decrease if it is planted in clayed soils. The grass grows best under full sunshine, and is not a shade-tolerant. The oil content of roots is generally some 2-2.5%. 18-month-old roots contain the most oil with the best fragrance. The older the root the greater the density of oil.

In addition, there was another introductory paper on vetiver oil. This paper, entitled "Vetiver Oil", introduced the production and processing of vetiver oil in some major oil producing countries and regions including Java, Reunion, Haiti, India, and some countries from South America. It also made reference to chemical ingredients, physical and chemical characteristics, functions and uses of vetiver.


Since vetiver has difficulty in producing viable seeds, the general propagation approach is through division of roots. The availability of vetiver seedlings was very deficient in the late 1950s, so priority was given to experimenting on the multiplication of materials. The successful propagation methods obtained from these experiments and surveys are as follows.

2.1 Multiplication by Stem-culm Cuttings

No matter how many nodes, mono-, bi-, or poly-node, are contained in a culm, old culms from the first four nodes in the base part of a stem have the highest survival rate, which goes up to about. 50-60%; whereas the culms from the 5-6th nodes only have 20-30% survival rate. The further the culms are from the base part, the lower their survival rates eventually to zero. In the same nodes, those which are deprived of sheaths and have revealed "bud-eyes" and "root points" sprout more rapidly, and produce more roots, than those which are not deprived of their sheaths. This is because the bud ~eyes~ and root points in culms whose sheaths are peeled off are capable of contacting directly with moisture in soil, which promotes root points to stretch and bud-eyes to sprout. If older cuttings are put in sand with saturated water, they will show "white dots" next day, and produce new roots in the third day; if younger cuttings are used it will takes more than 20 days, but they do not become dry or dead.

2.2 Multiplication by Pedicel-culm Cuttings

During the period of flowering, pull open leaves lying next to the 5 - 8th nodes, and cut off the pedicel from the top 3-4 nodes. Over 5-6 days after the top is cut, prune the pedicel culm at 1-2 cm from the ground. Divide each node of the pedicel into one section, then dip the sections into 0.01 % KMnO4 solution for 5 -10 minutes. After that plant them in a nursery. The nursery should well drained and fertile, water sufficient, and be in the shade. Irrigation is given 2-4 times per day, new roots will grow out some 10 days after planting.

2.3 Multiplication by Longitudinal-slit Stems

This method is interesting. Vetiver stems have opposite axillary buds and radicles. If a strong stem is longitudinally slit into two halves, then both can produce new tillers and roots. Longitudinal-slit seedlings should be cultivated in shade and the management must be meticulous. It is necessary to usually irrigate the bed in order to keep it wet. New roots will appear after stems have been transplanted for 6 days, and their establishment rate may be up to 100%. Furthermore, the propagation with longitudinal-slit stems has a pretty rapid tiller-formation; and can enhance multiplication speed by 2-5 times as compared to non-longitudinal-slit approach.

2.4 Multiplication through Pruning Tops

This is a quite novel approach. The main operation is as follows. Cut the top from the growth point when the plant grows up to 5-6 nodes; the purpose is to control top growth. Then peel off sheaths node by node to accelerate axillary buds aging. After top pruning and sheath removing, nutrients in plant will concentrate chiefly on the buds, thus new seedlings are beginning to sprout from the buds in 1-2 weeks. When the seedlings grow up to round 20 cm, pick them up with the mother buds and culms together. Then heel in them under shade to produce roots as soon as possible. After new roots come out in about one week, they can be outplanted. This propagation way usually has a establishment rate of over 95%, and its speed of forming seedlings is far faster than propagation by pedicel-culm cuttings.


3.1 Water-cultivation for Accelerating Root Growth

The method of water cultivation for speeding root growth is quite simple and is accomplished by laying the cuttings or root divisions vertically in 5-centimeter-deep water (e.g. shallow pool) for 7-10 days.

This advantages of this method are as follows:

? Has quicker growth and tillering Through water cultivation, seedlings no longer undergo the green-turning process, but grow directly. Thus they can produce tillers in advance.

? Roots rapidly. Water cultivation makes seedlings strike new roots only in 2-3 days, whereas the ordinary transplanting way takes at least one week. (In spring 1997, we did the same experiment, the result was that fastest new roots were produced in 3 days, and the slowest in a week or so.)

? Increased the survival rates, and better promotion of growth and development. While cuttings are used as multiplication materials, they will not take roots and from tillers until transplanting after 10 days or a longer, respectively, even if cuttings are from the older culms. If cuttings are the younger culms, the majority do not survive after transplanting. Through water cultivation, however, old stems grow new roots and leaves only in 2-3 days; young stems also take roots only in 10-15 days, and only a few become dry and dead.

3.2 Heel-in for Taking Roots

An ad hoc survey showed that the survival rate of vetiver through heel-in was 97.5%, whereas that with no heel-in was only 92.3%. Another experiment indicated no difference in survival rates in the rainy season between vetiver transplanted on the same day of uprooting and vetiver transplanted through heel-in. Therefore, it is best, in the rainy season, to plant vetiver immediately after it is dug up. In the dry season, however, heel-in for striking roots is an ideal measure to guarantee a high survival rate (Table 1). Heel-in can enhance the survival rate, but the time of heel-in is important, and it is best at 6-10 days after transplanting when new roots reach 2-4 cm.

Table 1 Comparison of effects of heel-in and non heel-in on the survival rate of vetiver

Weather condition Treatment Survival rate(%) Note

High temperature Heel-in 98.0 1

Drought Non heel-in 76.8 2

Low Temperature Heel-in 92 3

Drought non heel-in 81 4

1 ) Both treatments are 500 clumps and

2) Planting oil July 6, checking Aug. 4

3 ) Both treatments are 200 clumps

4) Planting on Jan. 17, checking Feb.10


3.3 Dipping Roots

Before planting, dip vetiver roots in 5-25 ppm 2,4-D, dilute fecal sewage, or even slurry. This method may increase survival rates, and promote tiller formation and growth. For example, the numbers of tillers and new roots whose seedlings were dipped into dilute ox-feces and water increased by 26.4% and 80.2%, respectively, compared with those seedlings not during the first three months after transplanting.

3.4 Keeping Mother Tillers in the Soil

When lifting from a nursery, keep 2-3 tillers from per clump in the ground to gain a more rapid multiplication rate for the next nursery. A special trial compares the tillering rate of the following 2 treatments : 1) the plants from mother plants left in soil, and 2) the plants replanted with the same mother plants. Both start with 10 tillers. After 35 days , treatment 1 goes up to 53 tillers , and treatment 2 becomes only 6 tillers. It is clear that tillering rate with mother plants left in the soil is by far the quickest.

3.5 Oblique Planting

Plant vetiver obliquely into soil when transplanting. It is possibly better to plant at an angle of about 45-600 rather than vertically.


4.1 Intensive Cultivation and Improved Management

The nursery must have fertile soil, adequate moisture and sufficient sunshine. When clumps of vetiver are divided into pieces for seedlings, it would be best to tear them where they tare best, otherwise seedlings will be damaged. Basal manure and water should be applied when seedlings are planted. Number of tillers may be enhanced by 2-3 times if good, enough basal manure is applied. Top dressing, liquid fertilizer is best, should be applied twice a month. Vetiver is drought-resistant, but the nursery should be supplied with sufficient water; so irrigation should be given once per 2-3 days if there is no rain. There is a trial that indicates the survival rate of vetiver planted in a wet field is 59.8%, and tillers number per clump averages 13.4, but in a dry field both are only 57.5% and 2.7, respectively, in the same period.

4.2 Proper Pruning

After transplanting seedlings to a nursery for 10 months (August -June), the nursery was set up for 4 treatments: 1 ) unpruned and unfertilized, 2) pruned and unfertilized, 3) unpruned and fertilized, and 4) pruned and fertilized. The plants were cut to 30 cm, fertilization with night soil, and observation time was 1 month. The results were that treatment 2 enhanced the number of tillers by 46.4%, but treatment 1 only by 17.7%; treatment 4 increases the number of tillers by 52.6%, whereas treatment 3 only by 26.9%. However, if the plants are pruned in less than 4 months after transplanting (February -June), they will suffer physical damages owing to their young age, which retards the growth and tillering. In the experiment above, the tillers number for treatment 2 increased only by 8.2%, but treatment 1 by 41.4%, after transplanting for less than 4 months.

The reasons why pruning can promote growing and tillering are because: 1) Vetiver is 150-160 cm high, and the bed’s coverage usually exceeds 90% when the plants are up to this height, thereby results in closing between rows. Vetiver, the C4 plant, demands lots of sunshine for its growth and development, however. Therefore, proper pruning may lessen the closing density and heighten sunshine density in all parts of the plant, especially improved photosynthesis of the new tillers . 2) prunings comprise mainly old stems and leaves. There is no serious effect of pruning them on the plant; on the contrary, removal of old parts can diminish the consumption of moisture and nutrients. 3) Pruning also cuts off pedicels or inhibits the plants from moving into the stage of reproductive growth, which would consume a great ideal of water and nutrients owing to flowering and seeding. 4) That old parts when cut off possibly produces stimulation to the plant itself, thus can also improve its growth and tillering.

4.3 Rational Close Planting

Vetiver has a very strong ability to produce new tillers, and therefore planting density has a significant influence on growth and tillering. An ad hoc trial indicates that different planting densities, according to table 2, 1 tiller per clump, produce the tangibly different numbers of tillers in 2 months. Certainly, it does not mean from table 2 that the sparser the planting density is, the better. Generally speaking, the planting density of 20 cm to 30 cm for multiplication is pretty ideal.

Table 2 Effects of different planting densities on tiller formation

Spacing Net increment of tillers per clump

15 x 20 cm 3.8

20 x 20 cm 4.4

20 x 25 cm 5.6

20 x 30 cm 6.6

30 x 35 cm 7.0


5.1 Shallow Planting Is Probably Better Than Deep Planting

Table 3 indicates that vetiver planted 3-4 cm deep is best, 5-6 cm second, and 7-8 cm worst, no matter which aspect, survival rate or tillers number of per clump. It is clear from this survey that shallow planting is better than deep planting. The crown must be buried in the ground, however. In addition, in the dry season the plants can not be inserted too shallowly, otherwise they would suffer from drought and result in a decrease of survival rate.

Table 3 Effects of different planting depths on establishment rate and tillering rate

Planting Depth (cm) Estab. Rate (%) # tillers/clump at 4 months

3-4 96.6 24.7

5-6 92.3 15.4

7-8 91.3 9.5

5.2 Keeping Long Roots Is Possibly Better Than Keeping Short Roots

An experiment tested 2 treatments: pruning roots to 15 cm, and to 4 cm. After transplanting for 3 months, the result shows that the plants with 15 cm long roots had more than more 8.2% of tiller numbers than those with 4 cm long roots. When heeling in, the former had 19.8% increase in the rate of tiller than the latter, in the same period. The difference, however, gradually dwindles as time goes on. Furthermore, effects of the two treatments had no significant effect on the survival rates. In general, 10 cm long roots are enough; too long roots are not recommended.

5.3 How Many Tillers Per Clump Should Be Planted

Three treatments in an experiment were set up : 1 tiller, 2 tillers, and 3 tillers per clump. After 2 months, their survival rates and new tiller increments were significant (table 4). Obviously, it is better to plant 2-3 tillers per clump in order to get the best establishment rate. It is certainly feasible to plant 1 tiller for each clump when seedlings are scarce. However, a rule, as mentioned above, is to tear off clumps at the place most easily-torn.

Table 4 Effects of different numbers planting on survival and tillering rates treatment

# Tillers per Clump Survival rate (%) Net increment of tillers per clump Net increment of tillers per tiller

1 70 1.19 1.19

2 81 1.30 0.65

3 98 2.03 0.68


The author are grateful to Professor He Daoquan for providing some precious reference material.


Attachment 8


Table 1 .... Nursery statistics        
Area ha.




# planting stations (30x30 cm)




# slips required (3 slips/station)




#plant plugs required (3 slips per plug)




Slips harvested (30 * per planting station)




Available plugs




Plugs for next semester nursery




Plugs for containers




Bare root plugs for hedges




Hedge rows planted with containers - meters




Hedge row planted with bare roots - meters




Area of farm land protected (bare rooted plugs) -- ha (average 500 m per ha)




Area of embankment protected (containerised plants) -- sq meters (1m per sq meter)




* minimum acceptable production per clump. On good alluvial soils and under good management 50 slips per clump is obtainable over a six month period.
Table 2 .... MODEL "A" Nursery        
Nursery Budget for nursery selling bare root and containerised stock (FMG’000)

Unit Cost

0.25 ha

1 ha


Purchase of nursery plugs (as clumps) @ 50 FMG each





Transportation of 1st year nursery plugs (50 FMG/plug)





Labor and Machinery costs @ FMG 2,275,000/ha





Input costs @ FMG 4,675,000





Additional cost for plastic containerised plants (FMG 120)





Miscellaneous /ha









Container plants @ FMG 300 each





Bare rooted plants @ FMG 20 per plug (3 slips per plug or equiv in clumps)





Total sales  












Table 3 ... MODEL "B" Nursery        
Nursery Budget for nursery selling bare root stock only (FMG’000)  

Unit Cost

0.25 ha

1 ha


Purchase of nursery plugs (as clumps) @ 50 FMG each





Transportation of 1st year nursery plugs (50 FMG/plug)





Labor and Machinery costs @ FMG 2,275,000/ha





Input costs @ FMG 4,675,000





Miscellaneous /ha









Bare rooted plants @ FMG 20 per plug (3 slips per plug or equiv in clumps)





Total sales  












Table 4 ...... Nursery Unit Costs        
Labor/machinery costs per ha.



Cost per unit FMG’000


Ploughing (tractor) ha




Harrowing (tractor) ha




Applying Farm Yard Manure man day




Fertilizing man day




Unloading/loading vetiver clumps man day




Pruning and sorting planting "plugs" (3 slips to a plug) man day




Treatment/dressing man day




Planting vetiver plugs (330 x 100 m rows) man day




Weeding oxen day




Topping/ weeding man day




Uprooting clumps man day




Loading clumps onto buyers truck man day




Sub-total (A)      


Input Costs per ha



Cost per unit FMG’000


Farm yard manure tonnes




DAP (Diammonium Phosphate) Kg




Urea Kg




Sub Total (B)      


Contingencies 10%      


TOTAL (A+B)      




Cost per marketable plug (3 slips) FMG      


Table 5 ..... Additional costs for production of containerised plants  



unit cost


Plastic bag (10 cm x 15 cm) each




Potting material & fertilizer each




Watering each




Weeding each




Loading on truck each






Table 6 ...... Field Costs (FMG’000) for Establishing Vetiver Hedges using bare rooted vetiver—Per 100 m*



unit cost

cost per 100 meter

Forming contour "v" Ditch Man-days




Preparation of plugs Man-days




Planting and Fertilizing Man-days




Weeding Man-days






Purchase of plugs at nursery gate** #




Transport of plugs #




DAP *** Kg




Contingencies %








* These costs need not apply in total, but reflect a theoretical optimum    
** Planting material purchased as clumps      
*** DAP can be substituted by 1 cu meter of farm yard manure    
Table 7 .... Field Costs (FMG’000) for Establishing Vetiver Hedges using containerised vetiver—Per 100 m*



unit cost

cost per 100 meter

Forming "v" Ditch Man-days




Planting and Fertilizing Man-days




Weeding Man-days






Purchase of containers at nursery gate #




Transport of slips #




DAP** Kg




Contingencies %








* These costs need not apply in total, but reflect a theoretical optimum    
** DAP can be substituted by 1 cu meter of farm yard manure