Unlike man-made structures that cost a lot to build, vetiver grass is a simple technology requiring no engineering experts. Planted as hedgerows, a barrier against erosion becomes effective in a few years, and the farmer can do it all himself with little or no help. And best of all, itŐs a natural solution that becomes a permanent part of the landscape.
To be effective, vetiver hedges must be planted along the contour, or ŇaveragedÓ contour in rough terrain. Depending on growing conditions and spacing, a line of vetiver slips will take 1 to 4 years to close into a dense barrier. Slips should be planted at the beginning of the rainy season with a spacing of no more than 20cm. A vertical interval of 2 meters between hedges should be adequate. Although vetiver hedges require little maintenance once established, pruning will promote tillering and reduce time to hedge closure. Low pruning will eliminate any light competition between hedge and crop. Otherwise, vetiver hedgerows donŐt compete with crops and, when planted in only 50cm strips, take little land out of production.
Vetiver grass has many good traits:
Some potential problem areas include saline, cold and drought tolerance, because their limits have not yet been established. This is not necessarily unfavorable, for example vetiver grass has been successful from 600 to 6000mm of rainfall and has survived dry seasons of 10 months. It has also been successful from sea level to 2600m above MSL. However, there are local markets for the aromatic oil distilled from vetiver roots, and this has led to the uprooting of plants in a few areas.
After finding plant material, propagate vetiver grass by using root divisions or slips. Establishing a vetiver nursery or hedge from seed is too risky due to low seed viability and peculiar germination requirements.
Farmers with plant material can install their own vetiver hedges at no cost. After the hedge becomes permanent in a few years, thereŐs no maintenance. When combined with contour farming, the vetiver hedge increases moisture conservation, leading to yields more than 50% better than traditional cultivation.
World Bank. (1990).. Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides): A method of vegetative soil and moisture conservation. Second edition. World Bank, Washington, D.C.
World Bank. (1990).. Vetiver grass: The hedge against erosion. Third edition. World Bank, Washington, D.C.
World Bank. (1990).. Vetiver Newsletter, March 1990, no. 3. World Bank, Asia Technical Dept., Agriculture Div., Washington, D.C.
A.G. Allison, Director
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