The Seventh International Vetiver Conference
was successfully held in Chiang Mai, Thailand between the dates of 29 May and 1 June 2023. The Conference commemorated His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great’s invaluable support for the development, promotion, and dissemination of the Vetiver System in Thailand and globally. The theme of ICV-7 was “Vetiver for Soil and Water Conservation”.
The success of ICV-7 reflected the strong interests, commitment, generosity, and efforts of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn – the Patron of The Vetiver Network International; the Chaipattana Foundation – for which we thank Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, the Secretary-General of the Chaipattana Foundation; and the Royal Development Projects Board – for which we thank Mr. Pawat Navamaratna, the Secretary-General of the Royal Development Projects Board. We also have to thank Mrs. Nongpun Meechuen for all that she and her team did to arrange and organize the Conference, as well as work tirelessly onsite to ensure that all the myriad details that go into making an event of this size and complexity went well. TVNI’s Technical Director, Dr. Paul Truong, also deserves thanks for having worked closely with the organizers and dedicating a great deal of time to assist in the organization of the content and papers.
Over 1,100 people from twenty-four countries registered, pre-conference, to attend in-person or online; about 20% of those were online registrants. The host organizations have posted all of the presentations online and they may be found by following the link HERE (or see Table 1, below) or cutting-and-pasting this link into your browser: https:/ / www.icv7thailand.com/ presentation/ .
Managing Soil Health With Vetiver for Food and Climate Security by Dr. Rattan Lal
……. winner of the World Food Prize and Director of Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration at the Ohio State University in the USA, gave the Keynote Address,
Dr. Lal has a long history with Vetiver Grass, having been a member of the expert panel that in 1992 carried out a scientific audit of Vetiver Grass, under the auspices of the US National Research Council.
The first part of the presentation reflected upon the global state of, and challenges to, agriculture and the resource base that it relies upon, its contribution to GHG emissions and the growing atmospheric carbon stock and CO2 concentrations, the extent of global soil degradation, the massive increase in global hunger since 2019, and problems with our present-day food systems. The second part elaborated on the urgent need for “Nature-positive agriculture” and “eco-intensification” to mitigate climate change, reduce emissions and increase carbon capture, regenerate and protect critical ecosystems, improve water quality and renewability, and enhance soil health to sustain production of quality food in the needed quantities. He then focused on soil health as a foundational concern for achieving a nature-positive, regenerative agriculture, in which soil organic matter is the heart and driver of soil health. The third portion of his presentation then focused upon the multiple benefits – agronomic, ecological, and socio-economic – that can be obtained from a Vetiver-based farming systems, including in support of his proposed initiative for soil health of “Farming Carbon” by growing soil carbon stocks as a farm commodity that can be traded and sold. In closing he offered the “Vetiver Mantra – Healthy Soil = Healthy Diet = Healthy People = Healthy Ecosystems = Healthy Planetary Processes”.
Dr. Lal’s presentation may be found here and the video of his presentation here, or by cutting-and-pasting the link to his presentation (https:/ / www.icv7thailand.com/ files/ ICV7P-660529-02.pdf) and/ or video (https:/ / youtu.be/ Ng3PcoJ8VpA).
Tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great and His role and contributions to the development of the Vetiver Grass Technology by Dick Grimshaw
In it, he reflected on The King’s farsighted theory of “The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy” – which promotes the idea of conserving scarce resources and optimizing production without harming the environment – noting that in today’s context of climate change and rapidly declining soil health, as applied to farming this philosophy is synonymous with “Regenerative Agriculture”.
Other key points in the talk included:
- The need to mobilize the VGT skills and experience of the private sector to extend and expand the use of the Vetiver System, as existing and experienced private sector companies have the skills to quickly deploy quality technical assistance and training to assist communities and new users.
- The desirability of developing private vetiver service businesses to service the farming community. This can be done by supporting experienced people who could, for example, assist to plan and survey the placement of vetiver hedgerows, use their own farms as demonstration sites, manage simple training workshops; provide “start-up” plant material, for technical follow up and quality control, and provide guidance to local user networks by injecting new ideas and sharing experiences.
- The need for governments to move from passive (talk) support to active support, through policies and programs that incentivize farmers to plant and maintain vetiver hedgerow systems that provide for adequate soil and water conservation as a basic requirements; and support to qualified, existing farmers to develop Vetiver Service Businesses (VSB) that provide for locally orientated and operated, low cost and focused services to farmers, which could be one of the fastest ways of meeting the Climate Change challenge at community level.
He concluded by suggesting that if King Bhumibol were still here today, he would certainly support and probably demand new efforts to accelerate the improvement of soil health and the well-being of the land and its people. And to do so, would likely be asking us to find additional and more effective methods to accomplish this need.
Dick Grimshaw’s presentation may be found here and the video of his presentation here, or by cutting-and-pasting the link to his presentation (https:/ / www.icv7thailand.com/ files/ TVNI-Tribute-1B-EN-17-mins.pdf) and/ or video (https:/ / www.icv7thailand.com/ files/ TVNI-Tribute-3B-TH-17-mins.mp4).
There were a total of fifty (50) technical presentations given over the second and third days of the Conference. Table 1 lists the presentations by their area of application and subject, as well as providing links to the individual presentations. The Award-winning presentations – King of Thailand Award, TVNI Award, and dual King of Thailand/ TVNI Awards – are highlighted, and the presentations given in the Plenary Session, held on Day 1 (30 May), are in bold text
Nine presentations were given on Day 1 in the Plenary Session, and on Day 2 the others were given in four thematic breakout sessions on agricultural production and soil and water conservation (Session 1); environmental protection and control/ treatment/ restoration/ rehabilitation of contaminated areas (Session 2); infrastructure protection and alternative uses/ socioeconomic values of Vetiver (Session 3); and training/ technology dissemination and other topics/ experience sharing (Session 4). The presentations, by breakout session, can be found HERE or cutting-and-pasting this link into your browser: https:/ / www.icv7thailand.com/ presentation/ .
ICV-7 Presentations by application area and subject
NOTE: Titles in bold are King of Thailand
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Contaminated Soil &
Monitoring expansion &
Growth & affects x soil
How to plant
ICV-7: Participant views
Several of the participants were asked to contribute a brief summary of what they found new, innovative, and/ or value added for them, from having attended ICV-7. Below is how they responded.
In addition to the high tech and highly Innovative contributions, the most impressive application was shown during the field trip to various villages, which set up Community Gardens to show how VS can be used to improve their vegetable plots such as mulching for weed control, stabilizing foot paths, etc. These Gardens provide free planting slips to community members as well as to others in nearby villages.
- Paul Truong, TVNI Director and Technical Advisor
|Figures 2 and 3. Conclusions and Recommendations for research and special attention from Dr. Paul Troung’s presentation: Summary and Trend of Papers Submitted to ICV-7|
The research and application of vetiver…after more than 40 years of development, has reached a very high platform, and has also been promoted to more than 100 countries and regions, and the scope of application is relatively wide. But the area and number of applications around the world are still not very large, and most of these are single application-types, often relatively small-scale and more of a demonstration/ experimental nature, which is not subsequently scaled up. It appears that the promotion and application of vetiver has entered a bottleneck stage. To be more widely recognized [and adopted]…we should be emphasizing its pioneering role, its low cost, and its ecological effects/ benefits, [and how VGT] combines with other species and processes to perform its powerful functions. The comprehensive development and application of business models should be [given serious consideration]…and [multi-sectoral approaches] should be developed. In short, the promotion and application of vetiver is a complex and huge process, and each country and region has its own methods and characteristics. How to integrate these methods and characteristics needs to be discussed at a deeper level in the future.
- Feng Ziyuan, PR China, Guangzhou Vetiver Eco-Science and Technique Co. Ltd. Dual winner of a King of Thailand Award for Outstanding Dissemination and Application of the Vetiver System, and a TVNI Award for his application of VGT for contaminated soil and water.
The conference was a very pleasant and worthwhile experience. Our Thai hosts did a spectacular job organizing and running the events, from the opening ceremony to the field trips. They treated us well with all of the hospitality, delicious food, and relaxed atmosphere that helped promote learning and meaningful conversations. While the active TVNI Facebook page, website, and other resources are the backbone for information and experience sharing, seeing and hearing firsthand the passion and dedication to the Vetiver System in person was eye-opening. This truly is a wonderful global community committed to fostering and expanding the use of this miracle grass. It was fascinating learning about all of the research and other uses that are currently going on in Thailand and the rest of the world.
- Eric Wiediger, Leachate Management Specialists LLC, USA. Winner of a King of Thailand Award for Outstanding Dissemination and Application of the Vetiver System
I had the incredible opportunity to attend the International Conference on Vetiver (ICV-7)…[the Conference] brought together experts, technologists, scientists, commercial businessmen, and vetiver handicraft producers from around the world. This diverse gathering facilitated invaluable knowledge sharing and meaningful discussions during conference sessions and social gatherings. The presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn elevated the conference to a great level…I extend my heartfelt appreciation to ICV-7, the Chaipattana Foundation, the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board (ORDPB), and…to the TVNI as the event has truly made a remarkable impact on my life.
- Mohammad Shariful Islam, Bangladesh, Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Winner of TVNI’s 2023 Global Vetiver Champion Award, and a TVNI Award for his application of VGT for infrastructure protection and disaster mitigation.
Participating in ICV-7 made me more conscious about the relevance of global networking and especially about having adequate outreach strategies to promote the Vetiver System (VS). Having the opportunity to connect and network with international vetiver experts at ICV-7 was both inspirational and an important personal commitment to further promote and scale this solution at different levels. Whether it means closing the data and research gap in my country by involving more national universities and research institutions or exploring opportunities to connect with universities and state departments in Thailand that lead vetiver innovation, attending ICV-7 was a transformative experience for me. It allowed me to reaffirm my commitment to VS as a nature-based solution that can provide regenerative and sustainable livelihoods for many people in need. On a professional level, it was the best opportunity to explore business and networking possibilities with the vast international vetiver family, collectively forming the diverse and extraordinary “vetiverse” that provides green environmental solutions worldwide.
- Antonio Carrillo Bolea, Mexico, Regenerative farmer/ farm consultant at Estampa Verde. Winner of a King of Thailand Award for People’s Participation.
“Diversity” is the word which springs to mind when I reflect on the ICV-7 in Chiang Mai. Those of us coming from very different worlds with various opinions and experiences gathered together to share our knowledge and to support each other. The common denominator was Vetiver; we were all united in our passion for the multitude of benefits reaped from this simple plant. As we departed after the conference, I felt the connections of the newly formed bonds with those from extremely diverse backgrounds, which had the tensile strength of vetiver roots working their magic.
- Catherine Carbajal, New Zealand, Integrated Landscaping & Environmental Management Ltd.
Dr. Lal on Carbon Sequestration
Because of the high interest amongst VGT users on Vetiver’s ability to sequester carbon, Dr. Lal offered this short presentation to assist in guiding the discussion. Prior to that, in his Keynote, Dr. Lal addressed the potential for confusion between Vetiver’s capacity to produce biomass and to sequester carbon (see between minutes 13:17 and 19:45). This second, short presentation, goes into the science of carbon sequestration. The figure below, a slide from Dr. Lal’s presentation, provides global average rates of carbon sequestration for some different land uses and management regimes. These rates pertain to the sequestration of carbon in stable forms within soils (e.g., soil organic carbon or SOC)
The presentation may be found HERE or you can cut-and-paste this address into your browser: https:/ / www.youtube.com/ watch?v=wI98zfePPkg&t=57s
For purposes of our ongoing discussions on Vetiver, an important takeaway from these is the need for greater clarity on what it is that we are measuring, reporting, and/ or talking about when we discuss Vetiver and carbon. Ultimately, as Dr. Lal points out, we need to consider two separate aspects of Vetiver and its direct impacts on carbon sequestration versus carbon storage. That is, the difference between Vetiver’s contributions to carbon becoming sequestered in stable forms within soils (e.g., SOC) versus the total amount of carbon that may be stored in Vetiver’s above and below ground biomass.
A side note on Vetiver & the question of carbon credits.
Clearly the use of Vetiver hedgerows also has indirect impacts on the retention (avoidance of loss), as well as increase, of carbon through a number of mechanisms such as arresting the loss of soils and the organic matter (SOM) they contain, by using leaves as mulch that both add soil organic matter as well as reducing the volatilization of SOM by the mulch’s shading and cooling effect, by maintaining and increasing site productivity and thus carbon storage and sequestration capacity over time, and others. The need for, and challenge of, measuring and quantifying these associated impacts is recognized as well. Most importantly, for those interested in how the use of VGT could ultimately generate carbon credits to benefit communities and individual farming households, quantifying these impacts will be essential.
At the same time, we need to be cautious about over-estimating the potential GHG mitigation benefits of the Vetiver System, especially if this leads to unrealistic expectations on the part of farmers and communities. As Dr. Lal notes in his presentations, the annual rates of carbon sequestration in soils (in both natural and managed systems) is relatively low from the perspective of a small farmer’s landholdings (Figure 4), but has great potential at landscape scales and above to make an important contribution to global mitigation efforts. In the figure above, from his second presentation, we see that the global average rates of carbon sequestration in soils, under what represent agricultural contexts (Turf, No-Till, Rangelands), are well-below 1 tonne/ ha/ yr (or 3.67 tCO2e/ ha/ yr). Findings from FAO’s 2023 Global assessment of soil carbon in grasslands – from current stock estimates to sequestration potential reinforce this. This study estimated the global average of soil carbon sequestration potential of available grasslands, when applying management practices known to improve SOC sequestration or protection, to be 0.3 tonnes C/ ha/ year in the 0-30 cm depth layer (or 1.1 tCO2e/ ha/ yr).
Carbon storage in Vetiver’s above and below ground biomass, which has been measured and quantified by many researchers of the last 20 or more years, is a whole other question. We know that Vetiver hedgerows can last for many decades, and we can also assume that Vetiver’s below ground root biomass is similar to its aboveground (see, for example, 2022 study Functional Links between Biomass Production and Decomposition of Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) Grass in Three Australian Soils). From these studies we know that Vetiver hedgerows are capable of efficiently accumulating and storing large quantities of carbon for decades. But does that count in the framework of today’s carbon markets, and if so, how?
Taking the second question first, the existing schemes for benefitting communities and smallholder farming households (see for example the work of Plan Vivo) require looking at the entire management system within the “Vetiver intervention” would be included. That is, one does not simply estimate what the sequestration and storage potentials are of the Vetiver hedgerows but must look at the overall farming (or cropping, or land management) system and account for not just additions of carbon, but also losses of carbon (for example, from pruning of hedgerows for mulch or fodder or of tillage impacts, etc.) and other GHG emissions from the system (e.g., emissions from biomass burning, from fossil fuel combustion, N2O emissions from fertilizer application, etc.).
Here is where knowledge of the indirect impacts of Vetiver plants and hedgerows becomes important, as well as understanding the specific context and systems into which one is introducing Vetiver, and what changes occur in result. It is complicated. To know how complicated, it is worth reviewing the types of standards and requirements for generating carbon credits for a community-level intervention that currently exist.
On the question of how VGT might fit into the current carbon markets, the short answer is carbon sequestration, understood as increasing SOC, it would be eligible, however for carbon storage in biomass it is not eligible. The current framework for biomass is focused on woody biomass (both above and below ground) from trees, not from grasses. Existing standards for nature-based approaches define carbon pools as including above-ground woody biomass, below-ground woody biomass, dead wood, litter, soil organic carbon, and long-term wood products. Despite Vetiver’s high potential to both produce biomass and to store biomass carbon over time frames similar to that of “market eligible” trees in agroforestry or reforestation schemes, because it is not “woody” it is not clear that it can be recognized under current criteria.
A Special Edition of “Agriculture World” for ICV-7 and the “relaunch” of the India Vetiver Network
Krishi Jagran – the Indian media house with the largest global presence in the agriculture sector – produced a special edition of its Agriculture World magazine for ICV-7. As explained by Mamta Jain, the Editor and CEO, this edition of Agriculture World is their “tribute to this WONDER GRASS and will proudly be launched at the 7th International Conference on Vetiver (ICV-7) at Thailand in the gracious presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn”.
It is also the launch of an initiative that was conceived by Mr. M.C. Dominic, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, and Dr CK Ashok, Chairman, President of the India Vetiver Network and Chairman, First World Community. As explained by Mr. Dominic, “VETIVER, the miracle grass which originated in India, has the amazing potential to mitigate and even reverse several global concerns like climate change, environmental pollution, rapidly deteriorating soil health, land erosion, contamination of water bodies and the like. The wise have said that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. It is time now for Vetiver. [So to that end] Krishi Jagran – the media house with the largest global presence in the agriculture sector, proposes to partner with The International Vetiver Network ( TVNI ) and all Vetiver enthusiasts around the world…”. Krishi Jagran brings an audience, an outreach, and invaluable, large-scale communications and outreach capacity with the potential to strongly influence the uptake and use of Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) in India and globally. It also brings what has been a missing element in the global promotion of the Vetiver System, and that is professional expertise in marketing, promotion, and communications to reach wider and popular audiences. That, along with a vision of engaging at the policy-levels of India’s national and state governments to mainstream the Vetiver System into relevant public programs and initiatives, holds the promise to turbocharge the scaling up of VGT adoption within India.
In parallel, Dr. CK Ashok Kumar is taking the initiative to reanimate the India Vetiver Network. Their first step is to reconstitute the INVN’s Board, with Mr. Dominic as a member, and CK as President. As India alone has some 770 million poor people living in rural areas – and three-quarters of its families are dependent on rural incomes – where the wide range of VGT applications can be directly relevant to many of their social, environmental, and sustainable income needs, a success through this innovative partnership between an active INVN and the Krishi Jagran Group could result in an expansion of VGT at scales that would dwarf the current global applications of VGT. TVNI extends its sincere thanks to Dr. CK Ashok Kumar, and Mr. Dominic and the Krishi Jagran Group for both the Agriculture World Special Vetiver Edition and for the serious interest they have expressed in expanding the adoption of the Vetiver System, something that may well be a serious game changer in bringing VGT to public notice and scale in India.
New York Times introduces “The climate hackers of Malawi”
In an April 27, 2023 article entitled “Meet the climate hackers of Malawi”, a reporter for the New York Times traveled across Malawi to meet farmers and see how they are finding creative ways to adapt their agriculture and agricultural practices to the challenges posed by climate change. The article documents the sobering challenges faced by farmers in Malawi, which has seen recurrent droughts in some places, extreme rains in others, rising temperatures and four cyclones in three years that have wiped out crops and increasingly requires farmers to change their crops and practices if they are to survive and feed their families and communities. One of the examples shared in the article is in a smallholder community where farmers are resurrecting old crops, like finger millet and yams, planting trees that naturally fertilize the soil, sowing pigeon peas to shade their soils from the scorching sun and planting Vetiver grass to protect their fields and plantings from damaging flood waters.
The article, amongst others, underscores how not just the smallholder farmers of Malawi, but smallholder farmers in general, throughout the world, are largely on their own when it comes to adapting their farming systems to climate change: “…for now, you have to do it without much help…Global funding to help poor countries adapt to climate hazards is a small fraction of what is needed, the United Nations said.” And this is why getting VGT into the hands of communities on the front lines of climate change is so important.
Advice from an expert on establishing Vetiver
Feng Ziyuan of China has been working with , and researching, VGT applications since 1995. His wide-ranging experience includes commercial scale propagation, ecological vegetation restoration, artificial wetland planning, domestic sewage and aquaculture wastewater treatment, water resources protection, treatment and utilization of garbage dumps, quarries and metal tailings ponds, development and production of vetiver essential oil and construction of various projects and other ecological projects. In 2000 he established his company, the Guangzhou Vetiver Industry Scientific & Technology Co., Ltd. (now Guangzhou City Vetiver Ecological Scientific & Technology Co. since 2018). At ICV-7 he received both a King of Thailand Award and a Vetiver Technology Award.
In a recent email he described his methodology for establishing Vetiver in commercial applications as follows: “In the process of applying vetiver, I almost no longer use seedlings from nutrient bags and instead grow and plant bare root stock. I no longer use nutrient bag seedlings because not only are they extremely costly, but they are unnecessary except under extremely harsh conditions such as long-term flooding, extreme drought, or sites without remaining soil, such as rocky and gravelly sites. Labor and transport costs are very much higher when using Vetiver in bags versus bare roots. One truck can transport the equivalent of about 50m2 of bare root stock where with bagged seedlings only about 5-6m2. Between loading and unloading costs and labor to plant the seedlings, the cost will be 10 to 15 times higher with bags.
To ensure successful establishment of bare root seedlings, I use a process and technology I call ‘vetiver + microorganisms + soil improvement + organic fertilizers + water retention agent’. This way I can ensure that the Vetiver layout will be effective within 90 to 120 days, and resistant to washout from a 100mm rainstorm.”
The pictures below are of a recent planting he carried out and he has promised to share with us more photos of the site at three months.