Vetiver grass(Eng), Khus Khus (Urdu/Hindi), Secate
violetta (Spanish), Xieng Geng Sao (Chinese).
Family: Gramminae: Chrysopogon zizanioides,
C.nigratana, C. nemoralis
Chrysopogon zizanioides -- Asia - subcontinent
Chrysopogon nigratana -- Southern Africa
Chrysopogon nemoralis -- South East Asia
Perennial grass, up to 2 m high, with a strong dense and
mainly vertical root system often measuring more than 3
m. It is by nature a hydrophyte, but often thrives under
- Mean 18 - 25º C
- Mean coldest month 5ºC
- Absolute minimum -
- When ground freezes
grass usually dies
- Growth normally starts
- Hot summer temperatures (25ºC +) required for rapid growth. (known to survive temperatures up to 55ºC)
- as low as 300 mm, but
above 700 mm preferable
- will survive total
drought, but normally requires a wet season of at
least three months. Ideal is well spread monthly
- grows better under
humid conditions, but does well also under low
- difficult to establish
under shade, when shade is removed growth
recovery is rapid.
- grows best on deep
sandy loam soils. However it will grow on most
soil types ranging from black cracking vertisols
through to red alfisols. It will grow on rubble,
both acid (ph3) and alkali (pH11) soils, it is
tolerant to high levels of mineral toxicities -
aluminium, manganese (550 ppm). It will survive
complete submergence in water for up to five
months. It grows on both shallow and deep soils.
- up to about 2,000 m. above 2000 m growth may be constrained by low temperatures.
Type of user:
Small and large farmers, conservationists, water authorities, highway, railway building site engineers, landfill and waste disposal authorities, mining authorities, aromatic industry, traditional medicine, handicraft makers, landscapers etc.
Massive root system that is generally vertical and non-invasive to adjoining habitat. Root mass will under good conditions be as much as 3 m deep, and as a mass creates a major below ground barrier. Roots will penetrate weathering "C" horizon rock material, and will follow cracks in otherwise unweathered rock material. Roots are very strong and have the capacity to bind strata together. Average root strength is 75 mpa and roots will improve shear strength of soil by 30 to 40%
Varieties and cultivars:
There are 12 known species of vetiver grass, and many
hundreds of different cultivars that exhibit distinctive
phenotypic differences which can be exploited by users
depending on need. For example thick, stiff stemmed
cultivars can withstand high water velocities and
probably are best for controlling gully erosion, softer
It is recommended that only non fertile cultivars of Chrysopogon zizanioides with origin in South India be used.
By root division. If plenty of planting material is
available in the form of existing hedges then these
hedges can be divided. In scarcity situations nurseries
are required for multiplication purposes. Depending on
rainfall and soils 1 slip can produce from 50 -100 new
slips in six months. Some cultivars have no flowers,
others have flowers, but sterile seeds, others have
fertile seeds - the latter type should be avoided. Where
end planting sites are very unstable (such as road
embankments or gullies with high velocity water flows) it
may be more appropriate to raise vetiver in containers,
such as 4" polybags. The advantage of this is that
there is "instant" growth of the transplanted
material rather than initial dieback that occurs with
bare rooted plant material.
Planting of hedgerows should take place early in the wet
season when the soil has been well wetted. 2-3 slips
should be planted at each "station", each
station should be 10 -15 cm apart. Distance between
hedgerows should be at a vertical interval of about 2 m.
On flatter land VI may be reduced to 1 meter. Care should
be taken to select good quality slips, and they should be
planted within three days of lifting from nursery. Better
to plant on the day of lifting. Planting slips should not
be allowed to dry off and should be protected from the
sun. From 2,000 - 3,000 planting slips are required per
100 m of hedge row. Under very dry conditions, > than
700 mm it is better to plant vetiver slips in small
"v" ditch or plough furrow to enhance moisture
availability at time of planting.
Unless a shade tolerant cultivar (rare) is available
vetiver should not be planted under shade, later it will
withstand shade levels of up to 50%. It will also recover
rapidly following the removal of shade.
Vetiver will establish better if about 100 kg of FYM is
applied per 100 running meters of hedgerow at planting.
If FYM is not available di-ammonium phosphate should be
applied at about 10 kg per 100 meters. Note one of the
advantages of FYM is that it helps to improve moisture
availability to the young vetiver plant at time of
establishment. FYM and/or DAP should be applied liberally
to nursery sites prior to planting of material for
multiplication. The use of slow release NPK nuggets for
containerized plant material, though not essential,
optimises growth rates. There is no need to use
fertilizer for maintenance purposes once the hedges have
1- 1.5% of the dry weight of the roots that are harvested
yield levels under fertile and moist (irrigated)
conditions can be as high as 100 tons per ha. Normally 15
Pests and diseases:
Vetiver is generally resistant to most pest and diseases. Vetiver appears to be more susceptible to disease when it is weak and not growing well, particularly on very shallow soils in association with drought conditions. Under the latter conditions, root fungus attacks can be serious. Termites will only attack dead or dying parts of vetiver. If the attack is serious the termite "hills" created can smother living vetiver. Under such conditions annual burning of vetiver hedges will greatly reduce the incidence of termite damage due to burn out of dead plant material. On the other hand recent research indicates that Vetiver has good potential as a "push pull" crop, attracting insects such as stem borer away from adjacent maize crops.
Vetiver is known to live for a long time. The longest
recorded period is about 60 years (at Msamfu Research
Station in Zambia).
Availability of plant:
Material vetiver can be found in most tropical and semi-tropical countries. Often it has been introduced by aromatic and essential oils industry. National and University herbariums often have vetiver in their collections, and have the local name for it. Traditional medicine users often know of a source of vetiver (though they will not know the grass as vetiver). Vetiver can often be found in countries with established sugar industries, as the latter have used vetiver for conservation purposes over many years. There are well known sources of good quality vetiver in eastern and southern Africa, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the United States. It is stressed that seedless or sterile vetiver cultivars should be used.
The cost of establishment of vetiver depends much on the
level of farm labor wages. In most countries where labor
rates are about US$ 1 - $1.50 per day vetiver can be
established in the field at about US$3 per 100 meter of
running hedgerow. Containerized planting can be 10 times
higher. Farmers who have a source of vetiver on their
farms or nurseries close at hand, can dig and plant
between 100 and 200 meters of vetiver per day.
A well managed nursery can produce over 2 million
planting slips per ha per year, sufficient to plant 50 km
of hedge row.
Impact on soil losses:
Records from most sites where data has been collected
indicate that erosion levels can be reduced to less than
3 tons/ha of soil loss per annum. This is an acceptable
Impact on runoff reduction:
Records indicate that runoff can be reduced by as much as
60 -70% of recorded rainfall. Variation is quite high,
and depends on slope, rainfall event intensity, and
potential infiltration rates and water holding capacity
of soils at site.
Ground water recharge:
Not many investigations have been undertaken, but it
appears that recharge rates of 30% over non protected
areas are being achieved where vetiver is used.
Crop Yield Increases:
Research and on-farm data confirms that in the majority
of cases there are quite significant yield increases
associated with the use of vetiver grass hedges varying
from 15 - 60%. Yield increases are variable and are
associated with rainfall patterns and soil types. Risk of
crop failure is reduced. It should be noted that in most
instances does not compete for moisture and nutrients
with adjoining crops.
Information on vetiver is available in many countries and on this web site