Believe it or not despite all these impressive dollar figures, planting and harvesting Vetiver at that scale is an excruciating job, whether by manual or mechanical farming. Therefore I stopped digging roots (except for expanding the plantation) and my plantation in the Dominican Republic is now entirely dedicated to the production of BIOMASS FUEL, using the Vetiver LEAVES which can yield (under irrigation) 80-100 tons of dry leaves per hectare per year, just by MOWING and BALING every 3-4 months. (the very young leaves, one month after mowing are good cattle feed, with up to 14% protein, if you have cattle. You can just turn them lose in the field ).
Recently Gueric Boucard (Dominican Republic) who has been in the vetiver oil business for years, and is now growing vetiver as a profitable bio fuel, sent the following to a vetiver grower in Europe. I though I would share it with you as it is rather thought provoking.
“If I could find a place to sell Vetiver slips at about 2 Euro a slip I would make millions overnight…., and Haiti would become a country of very rich peasants.
You can estimate that one hectare could yield over a million single slips/ annum:
Let’s do the math, just for fun.
For mechanized Vetiver farming, on only a hundred hectares in the Dominican Republic, we plant (on 1 hectare 100m x 100m) 55 rows 100 meters long (rows are 1.80m apart to accommodate large digger tractor), which equals 5,555 linear meters of six clumps per meter (a tight staggered double row), which is a total 33,330 vetiver clumps per hectare, which after one year with irrigation will yield an estimated 50 seedlings (slips) per clump, that is: 1,666,500 SLIPS @ 2 Euro each = 3,333,000 Euros of slips per hectare. Wow!
That’s a lot more money than corn and wheat, sugarcane or bananas…., or even cocaine per hectare (just guessing on the cocaine!).
The trouble is that despite the many pictures of unearthed Vetiver clumps, on line, with 4-6 feet long roots, the practical yield of roots dug by hand or with a machine cannot exceed 3-4 tons per hectare, since it is not practical to go more than 2 feet deep, while many roots break and remain in the soil….., and worse if the soil is not totally loose and sandy.
About 5 years ago the Haitian farmers were selling roots for US$500/ton. A year ago they went up to US$1,000/ton, and this year they went up to nearly US$3,000/ton, because of the Good Samaritan work of a French organization called the NRSC (Natural Resource Stewardship Council) which came to Haiti to promote Social Justice and set out to organized the Vetiver farmers into Cooperatives. (you may Google NRSC and find out more about their noble Agenda).
As a result the price of Vetiver oil went from US$185/kg last year to US$350/kg today. (FYI one ton of roots yields 10kg of Vetiver oil by steam distillation for 36 hours.)
The larger Haitian distilleries process about 10-15 tons per day, which requires planting and harvesting 5 hectares per day for a 250 days season, or roughly 1,250-2,000 hectares under cultivation per distillery. There are less than a dozen distilleries.
When cancelling out the yearly up-rooting and replanting, Vetiver becomes the easiest guaranteed perennial crop in the world, with the two easiest farming operations (mowing and baling), which makes it a virtual biomass FUEL MINE. Considering that such biomass fuel is worth up to $30/ton, this makes it a US$3,000/ha crop, which is as good or better revenue than any row crop in the world.
It makes sugarcane and other food crops a total waste of good tropical farmland. I have said and repeat that, at least on small tropical islands, like Haiti, ALL the the flat farmland should be used for Vetiver BIOMASS FUEL and ELECTRIC ENERGY production. Please buy the bananas from Chiquita Banana, your corn from Kansas City, and your sugar, rice, and wheat from subsidized US farmers CHEAP…., and at least turn the lights, the fans, and the AC on, for Pete’s sake. (More than half the people on earth still live in total darkness and miserable heat).
By the way, from the point of view of caloric value compare the following:
According to literature:
Diesel fuel has 18,000 btu/lb
Vetiver Biomass has 7,000 btu/lb
Diesel (say at $2/gal, or $0.25/lb) has a caloric value (cost!) of: (do your own math):
$13.6 per Million btu
Vetiver Biomass (at $30/ton or $0.015/lb) has a caloric value (cost!) of:
$2.14 per Million btu
BTW fossil coal delivers 14,000 btu/lb…, twice the Vetiver Biomass and is worth about $60/ton theses days.
(Dollars per Million btu, that’s how people in the energy business compare the cost of various fuels)
This means that it is 6 times more expensive to fire a furnace ((e.g. a boiler) with diesel oil or #6 oil, than with biomass. Biomass electricity is CHEAPER and CLEANER than fossil fuel electricity of any kind, oil, gas, or coal.
Biomass is GOOD CARBON (closed loop of combustion and photosynthesis). Fossil fuel of any kind, even natural gas is BAD CARBON because it puts formerly sequestered carbon (underground) into the atmosphere in the form of excess CO2, which causes the greenhouse effect and Climate Change.
Vetiver is also a great CARBON SINK and large fuel plantations worldwide would tend to capture and sequester excess atmospheric CO2 in the large root system.
For whatever it is worth, that’s my observation and understanding of Vetiver related activities, not to mention the erosion prevention.
Greetings to all Vetiver enthusiasts