Vetiver, Stoves and Biofuel

I was speaking with Criss Juliard this morning and he reminded me about the good work being done by Mike Mahowald’s group, Haiti Reconstruction in Haiti with respect to using vetiver for fueling efficient cooking stoves.  Let me first say how impressed I am with the various programs that his group sponsors.  It is doing a terrific job.  It has quite a focus on the Vetiver System for: soil and water conservationsoil fertility, and biofuel.

Haiti Reconstruction is promoting TLUD stoves – Top Lit Up Draft gasifiers stoves as the best stove design for Haiti.  These stoves are relatively cheap and will burn any sort of fuel including grass and vetiver produces very high heat output compared to other species; they burn cleanly and efficiently, have a good life expectancy, no dirty charcoal and no nee to use trees; smokeless, and produces biochar that can be returned to the soil.  The group will also be pelletizing vetiver leaves as fuel.  Assuming that a country wide vetiver program emerges for erosion and flood control, as well as for slope stabilization there will be a lot of vetiver biomass that could be used as biofuel.  Incidentally these TLUD stoves should be able to be made by any village metal working shop.  Other low income countries could and should follow this example.
Here are a few botanical facts about Vetiver (Gueric Boucard) with regard to Biofuel use:
1)    According to Dr. Massimo Maffei of the University of Turin, Italy, Vetiver is the one plant on the planet with the highest photosynthetic activity.  What this means, is that, given x amount of sunshine and sufficient water and nutrients, vetiver produces the most dry biomass per unit of time.
2)    Other plants produce a tremendous tonnage of biomass per hectare like potatoes, sugarcane, sugar beets, grapes, etc. Some of these plants even yield more than 100 tons per hectare. However, such biomass contains 50% or more water moisture, and is difficult, if not impossible to dry quickly in the sun.  Vetiver Hay is easily sun dried in a few hours, and produces up to 70 or 80 dry-tons per hectare of cellulosic biomass with adequate water and nutrients.  Unlike other biomass, vetiver grows above ground and is relatively easy to harvest, by hand or with the right, specially designed Mower.
3)    Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanoides) is from the “Gramminae” family, like many other  grasses and grains.  However, the variety found in Haiti and the Dominican Republic does not propagate by seed. (This is a great advantage; otherwise, it would be a terrible weed to eradicate). Instead, Vetiver is a perennial, which grows in a clump of seedlings, and which propagates vegetatively by replanting the separated seedlings. A one-year-old clump contains up to 100 seedlings. The propagation ratio is about 50:1.  In other words, it takes one hectare of a Vetiver nursery to re-plant 50 hectares. Since Vetiver is technically a “rhizome”, the single seedling will grow on the periphery, until the plant reaches a diameter of 30 cm after one year and of nearly 1 meter after several years. Such a vetiver plantation can last up to 15 or 20 years without replanting.  Once the plantation is established, there is virtually zero maintenance, other than watering and fertilizing. An established VETIVER plantation is a veritable BIOMASS FUEL FACTORY that only needs to be mowed as needed, any time of the year.   More from Boucard
Spare a few minutes to check out Haiti Reconstruction site, I can promise you that you will learn something useful.  If bilateral and multilateral development agencies would just stand back and THINK for a moment, they would soon realize that the Vetiver System will not only mitigate against extreme weather conditions, but will conserve soil, moisture and increase crop yields: and the residues can provide fuel for cooking and heat. What more can you ask from one of the cheapest and friendliest green technologies on Planet Earth.  In other words VS is key for tackling CLIMATE CHANGE  issues.
Dick Grimshaw

As a post script “Solar Bob” sent in these two very good and comprehensive links: Stoves and feedstock  (gasification TLUD type); Latest on Stoves; and Biochar.  Thank you Bob