Vetiver Grass Installation Guide from US Department of Agriculture Now Available

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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An excellent document is now available that provides basic guidelines for installing vetiver grass in soil conservation applications. This guide was published in 2012 by the Oahu Resource Conservation and Development Council in cooperation with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Pacific Islands Area.

The 16-page PDF document (in English) can be downloaded free from the Agriflora Tropicals online store. There you will also find many other valuable free documents and several vetiver plant packages that can be ordered for shipment to USA destinations.

Click Vetiver Grass Installation Guide - USDA to receive your copy.

Announcing the 6th International Conference on Vetiver (ICV-6)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

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Looking for an excuse to visit Vietnam?

The Organizing Committee of the Sixth International Conference on Vetiver has the great pleasure of extending invitation to you to join the significant event which is to be held in 5-8 May 2015 in Danang City, Vietnam.

VETIVER SYSTEM: EMPOWERING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

With the theme Vetiver System: Empowering Sustainable Development, ICV-6 aims at promoting the application of vetiver in the global task of sustanable development of agriculture, civil engineering, environment (including water and land improvement and rehabilitation) and other possible areas. Continuing the success of ICVs in the past years, ICV-6 promisingly creates an effective forum for those interested in, passionate about and experienced in Vetiver System's applications. It also provides opportunities for networking, business, professional growth and learning.

Download the schedule and full information package at this Third Announcement page, or visit the conference website at the conference website.

Donations to The Vetiver Network International

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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The Vetiver Network International needs a little help so that it can keep moving forward!  It needs additional funds through donations to keep it going and to help generate and share the stream of Vetiver System information that has enabled the technology to steadily expand throughout the world.  A “Donate” button has been set on their website at http://www.vetiver.org/#donate  that will allow donations of any size to be received, using an acceptable credit card or a PayPal account.  The act of donating will generate automatically a receipt by email that can support the donation when claiming, if necessary, a tax deduction.  TVNI is a non profit organization and is classified as a charity. Remember also that all donations are used for Vetiver System promotion (as TVNI has no paid staff and has minimal overheads).

I hardly need remind you that the Vetiver System provides an important technology at this time of climate change with particular importance in helping to assure food security through soil and water conservation and soil fertility maintenance; mitigating contaminated land and water; stabilizing slopes; and for reducing the impact of disasters due to extreme rainfall events. There are many examples of what the Vetiver System can do and what it has done - all of which can be found on their website at: http://www.vetiver.org

Selecting the Correct Vetiver Grass for Soil Conservation Projects

Friday, August 16, 2013

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In a recent discussion on The Facebook Vetiver Grass Network, a member from Jamaica was concerned about finding the correct vetiver grass to propagate for a local project. The register of verified vetiver growers in The Vetiver Network International does not include any sources in Jamaica. Without a trusted source, the selection of planting material can be tricky.

Dale Rachmeler, Vetiver Network Director for Sub-Sahara Africa replied in that discussion:
There are at least 11 species of vetiver and lots of cultigens and cultivars. Only one of the species, Chrysopogon zizanioides, is sterile (actually it sets infertile seed very infrequently) - so no viable seeds in C. zizanioides. Its root system is vertical in nature made of a mass of fine roots growing vertically downwards originating from the crown of the plant that is usually 4-6 inches below the surface of the ground,

The flower stems and leaves also emerge from the same crown that has nodes that encircle the crown. New crowns can be formed on the nodes of on the flower stem that appear for up to 12 inches above ground. These nodes are activated when soil accumulates behind hedges and the nodes are covered by that accumulated soil. These nodes then produce new plants that have the emerging crowns and this is the mechanism by which vetiver hedges can protect the front side of the accumulated soil and create a vegetative barrier that rises more or less vertically with the increased accumulation of soil (the creation of natural terraces).

If farmers or other locals see what they think is vetiver encroaching into their fields then it is definitely not C. zizanioides. All the other species of vetiver are seeded and can be invasive. For example, on the African continent you have C. nigritana which is found all over the place in isolated clumps that were formed from seed that is blown mostly by the wind. It has also been used for vegetative barriers but has a much smaller root mass than zizanioides (let's say by a factor of 3-5). For most people it is very difficult to tell the difference between these two species as they look very similar above ground. There is a slight difference of color of the flowers, and the spacing between the flowers on the stem is slightly different. The root color for nigritana is browner than for zizanioides which has a lighter color.

C. zizanioides has spread around the world mainly for its essential oil in the roots (1800s to 1900s) and recently since 1990, mainly because the Vetiver Network has taken it to over a 100 countries for soil and water conservation. In this modern era, DNA typing is available and affordable and is the only definitive way to make sure you have zizanioides. Once you have it, you are set to go and since you can multiply a clone when you grow it in a nursery.

The most practical and reliable way is to know the origin of the nursery material. There is more information on The Vetiver Network International dealing with the species variation and the distinctions between them. A collection of African vetiver is held in South Africa and is being tested for DNA. India holds a collection of all species and they mainly do breeding work for oil bearing zizanioides cultigens. Please continue to ask questions and be curious about vetiver. In the end I think you will find that it is a very worthwhile issue to get involved with.
The plants from Agriflora Tropicals, available to the USA and its territories, at the Agriflora Tropicals store, are certified to be of the non-invasive type by the US Department of Agriculture. In other countries, checking the list of verified sources on The Vetiver Network plant suppliers page is the best first step. Read more about the vetiver plant in "The Plant" section of this blog.

Saving Oceanic Islands with the Vetiver System

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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Oceanic islands, no matter whether they are in the Pacific, (the world’s largest area of scattered tiny islands) or anywhere else in the world as long as they are between the latitudes of 30° North or South of the Equator, will depend on the Vetiver System for their future survival as viable habitats.

[This article is contributed by guest blogger John Greenfield - Director, The Vetiver Network International]

I developed the Vetiver System using contour rows of vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) over 50 years ago for the Fiji Sugar Industry to stabilize farm land in the Fiji Islands. It was extremely successful and is still there today. This system of sustainable hedges is fully applicable to all other tropical developing countries in order to sustain their agricultural production in every aspect.

Vetiver Systrem vs contour banks
Vetiver Systrem vs contour banks
The standard methods of constructed soil conservation still being taught at temperate climate universities throughout the world, do not work in the tropics and especially in tiny ocean islands exposed to short duration and high intensity rainstorms and hurricanes. The constructed system of ‘conservation’ is expensive to install. Because of its design characteristics, it takes up too much land to be properly installed, is short lived, and is extremely expensive to maintain. The constructed system is designed to collect runoff, divert it to a safe outlet and dispose of it ‘safely’. This is the last thing a rain-fed farmer on a small tropical island wants. The constructed system because it acts like a drain, is also the worst system for replenishing freshwater aquifers in these tiny island atolls. Rainfall must be evenly distributed over the surface so that it can find access to the aquifers and replenish them before being lost to the sea as runoff.

Recently, in the South Pacific, we have seen the devastation of the little island Niue as a result of a 300+ kilometer/hour hurricane. The island of Niue is typical of so many of these little islands and atolls, it is 260 square kilometers in size, has 4,108 ha of arable land of which 470 ha are, or were, in permanent crops. For sustained viability, this land and the surrounding marginal land will need stabilizing to prevent soil loss and runoff. This can only be done in the tropics using the Vetiver System, a dynamic system of hedges across the slopes around the island.  These hedges of vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), once established, are permanent and effective barriers to soil loss and runoff. Ocean islands depend on rainfall to replenish their fresh water aquifers, usually on ‘perched-water tables’.

In their natural state, these little islands had some jungle cover which provided fuel wood and building material, but more importantly the jungle’s undergrowth and leaf-litter spread the rainfall run-off out, slowed it down, gave it a chance to seep into and replenish the natural aquifers before it ran in to the sea.

With greater population pressure in recent years - tourist resorts, paved roads, airport runways, and other constructions, these jungles - and especially the undergrowth - have been destroyed. Gardens which used to produce sufficient food to mix with the fish and shellfish from the reef and lagoons are now producing next to nothing. Runoff is uncontrolled; top soil is disappearing fast and, where it enters the sea polluted, it kills the reef. Not only are food stocks going down but, due to pollution, fish stocks in the lagoons are diminishing also. Where the coral of the barrier reef is damaged, there is no protection from the next hurricane, and the storm waves can now be devastating.

Tourism has created another major problem . . . rubbish. This trash, especially plastic containers, bottles, and
Vetiver on a beach - Bali
Vetiver on a beach - Bali
wrapping all non biodegradable. This is being dumped in the drainage network and eventually ends up out at sea. Vetiver hedges planted in the drainage network filters all this rubbish out of the runoff and holds it back for collection and proper disposal.

 In their present state, these islands can be supplied with food, health needs and infrastructure by aid agencies and the ‘outside world’. Because of their isolation, we cannot supply them with sufficient water (or soil), nor keep up the supply. Rainfall must be controlled so that it isn’t wasted as runoff or polluted by poor rubbish disposal; this is the only way to ensure water supplies to these little islands and keep them habitable. Very few of these small islands have any rivers or streams; they depend on rainfall to replenish their ‘perched water-tables’ - and the only way this can be done is by controlling the runoff and giving it a chance to soak in to the ground.

Vetiver grass hedgerows can be very valuable in preventing erosion and water damage to tracks, wells and gardens within the island’s housing areas, and in protecting roads (even against tsunamis which will go over the hedges and not under them). The hedgerows should be coupled with urban tree planting in housing areas, trees which could serve as shade as well as a source of timber; food; fuel or forage. When planted along embankments and in catchment areas, vetiver hedgerows can also reduce erosion of roadsides and airfields. If there are streams in the country, the hedgerows are also extremely important in permanently reducing stream bank erosion and sediment loads entering streams, reservoirs and harbors. The massive root system of the vetiver plant (measured down to six meters in Thailand) forms an extremely dense ‘underground bio-dam’ across the slope, and is capable of clarifying water and not only maintaining but increasing year around water flow of springs and streams by holding back runoff and giving it a chance to find an underground aquifer.

Because of their soil filtering function, natural terraces begin forming behind vetiver hedgerows soon after planting. Not only do hedgerows mitigate erosion, but empirical data indicate that the survival, growth and production of trees and annual crops planted behind the hedges can be increased by as much as 50% by conserving topsoil, increasing the availability of nutrients and moisture for these plants.

Vetiver grass hedges planted across the slope of steep hillsides establish extensive root systems and begin reducing erosion within the first year. A study by scientists from Texas A&M after Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, shows that erosion was reduced from "92 tons of soil/ha/yr to 0.9 tons/ha/yr on steep hillside farms that were protected by contour hedgerows of vetiver.” The only farms that weren’t destroyed during Hurricane Mitch, the most violent hurricane ever recorded, were those protected by vetiver hedges.

What is needed now is to get a small island as a demonstration area using the Vetiver System, to show the aid agencies the economic effectiveness of this system and be used as an example to the rest of the world’s ocean islands. We would need to get approval from the governing body of the island or island group to lay down such a demonstration covering the full benefits of the Vetiver System on one island. We would need to get approval to import the planting material, the experts and labor to lay out the demonstration and the funds to cover this plus a maintenance period of at least three seasons. We would also need to budget for a high-standard documentary to be made of the demonstration for further publicity of what can be done in such threatened areas . . . before it is too late.

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