Why Vetiver Grass is the Ideal Plant . . .

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We all like nicely organized bullet lists to highlight and explain a subject. So, when I found this page in the book Vetiver Grass: The Hedge Against Erosion published by The World Bank in 1987, I knew that I had to share it with you. Over time, I will be touching on all these reasons on different articles, but this list makes a nice summary of why we are such fanatics of this plant.

Why Vetiver Grass is the ideal plant for The Vegetative System of Soil and Moisture Conservation, Earth Structure Stabilization, and Environmental Rehabilitation

Although many grasses and trees have been tried over the years as measures to prevent erosion, to date only Vetiver grass has stood the test of time. As made clear by the following list of its characteristics -derived from observations of Vetiveria zizanioides throughout the world - this truly remarkable plant is ideally suited for the vegetative system of soil and moisture conservation, earth structure (i.e. roads) stabilization, and environmental rehabilitation. No other grass is known to rival its hardiness or diversity.

  • When planted correctly (i.e., close together), Vetiveria zizanioides will quickly form a dense, permanent hedge.
  • It has a strong fibrous root system that penetrates and binds the soil to a depth of up to 3 meters and can withstand the effects of tunneling and cracking.
  • Stiff and erect sterns, which form dense hedges, can stand up to relatively deep water flow which reduces flow velocity and traps sediment.
  • It is perennial and. requires minimal maintenance.
  • It is practically sterile, and because it produces no stolons or rhizomes it will not become a weed.
  • Its crown is below the surface, which protects the plant against fire and overgrazing.
  • Its sharp leaves and aromatic roots repel rodents, snakes, and similar pests.
  • Its leaves and roots have demonstrated a resistance to most diseases.
  • Once established, it is generally unpalatable to livestock. The young leaves, however, are palatable and can be used for fodder. (In Karnataka, India, a cultivar of Vetiveria zizanioides selected by farmers has softer leaves and is more palatable to livestock. This cultivar is also denser, less woody, and more resistant to drought than some of the other available cultivars.)
  • It is both a xerophyte and a hydrophyte, and once established it can withstand drought, flood, and long periods of water logging.
  • It will not compete with the crop plants it is used to protect. Vetiver grass hedges have been shown to have no negative effect on - and may in fact boost-the yield of neighboring food crops.
  • It is cheap and easy to establish as a hedge and to maintain - as well as to remove if it is no longer wanted.
  • Highly tolerant to a growing medium high in acidity, alkalinity or salinity
  • Highly tolerant to AI, Mn, As, Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb, Hg, Se and Zn in the soils.
  • High level of tolerance to herbicides and pesticides.
  • Highly efficient in absorbing dissolved N, P, Hg, Cd and Pb in polluted water.
  • It will grow in all types of soil textures; this includes sand, shale, and gravel.
  • It will grow in a wide range of climates. It is known to grow in areas with average annual rainfall between 200 and 6,000 millimeters and with temperatures ranging from -15 degC to 55 degC.
  • It is a climax plant, and even when all surrounding plants have been destroyed by drought, flood, pests, disease, fire, or other adversity, the vetiver will remain to protect the ground from the onslaught of the next rains.
I believe that this book is out of print, but other more current books are available through links in the right hand column of this blog.

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