In 1989 NRCS purchased one square foot of vetiver from Eugene LeBlanc of Sunshine LA. In 1990 Michael Materne initiated the cooperation between NRCS and Fort Polk at which time trials of vetiver hedgerows were installed in lieu of earthen terraces. Costs of installing vetiver hedgerows were found to be about 60% that of earthen terraces. The first hedges were installed down slope from overflowing silt basins along a highly eroded area on Fort Polk training lands. Within 6 weeks the accretion of silt/debris and sediments were notable. (Refer to Vetiver Grass: A Hedge Against Erosion for pictures.) Some of the hedges on the higher elevations were singed by a wild fire but recovered shortly thereafter.
The second major project (1991 involved extensive hedges installed on a former tracked vehicle training area up slope from a newly constructed silt basin. That area has been burned two times since then after which the vetiver recovered completely.
Vetiver is being installed on sites that do not require dozer work and some sites after dozer work to decrease erosion after damages are suffered. The plants are placed in about 10 inch deep trenches at a rate of 2 pots per foot. Subsequently the plants are buried to about 4 inches above the crown.
In 1996 Fort Polk completed a 4500 square foot plant propagation facility for the express purpose of staying in vetiver production year round. In addition there is an extensive field planted in vetiver for increase.
Vetiver is propagated on Fort Polk by planting one single stem and one 21 gram slow release orchard tablet per pot of Jiffy Mix Plus potting medium. The single stems are separated from the parent plant, tops are clipped to 15-18 inches tall. A few roots are left on each stem. Plants are watered adequately and after tillers begin to form the pots are top dressed with a slow release fertilizer every 45 days.
Fort Polk is the repository for the Sunshine vetivergrass. It is available through NRCS to commercial growers at no charge. 100 single stems are ample to begin commercial production.
Dr. Kittie Derstine