Hand Book on Vetiver grass technology -- From Propagation to utilisation. For Ethiopia


A) Technical Specification

Name: Vetiver Grass (English), Khus khus (urdu/ Hindi), Serdo kelkel (Amharic) and Menschen Fur Menschen grass locally called in Illubabor

Family: - Gramminaea,

Varieties and Cultivars:- there are 12 known species and may be hundred different cultivars that exhibit distinctive phenotypic which can be exploited by users depending on need. Widely used varieties are:



It is a perennial grass growing up to 2 meters high, and 3 meters deep in the ground. It has a strong dense and vertical root system. It grows both in hydrophilic and xerophytic conditions.

To know more about the character of the plant it is advisable to classify the whole plant in to culm, leaf, roots, inflorescence, seed and seedling.


A stalk, stem; the jointed stem of various grasses, usually hollow. The Vetiver culm is strong, hard, and lignified, having prominent nodes that can form roots, which is one way the plant uses to rise when it is buried.

Leaf: Vetiver leaves will sprout from the bottom of the clumps. Each blade is narrow, long and coarse. The angle of the blade is parallel and the apex is acute. Particularly the old leaves edge and midrib is spinulose. Normally, the base and the middle of the blade have a few spines whereas the apex has numerous spines. All spines are pointing diagonally towards apex. The leaf is 45-100 cm long and o6-12 cm wide.


The roots of Vetiver are the most useful and important part. Most grasses have fibrous toots, which spread out from the underground part of the culm and hold the soil in a horizontal pattern. The roots that penetrate vertically in to the soil are not deep. In contrast, the root system of vetiver grass does not expand horizontally but penetrates vertically deep in to the soil, whether it is the main, secondary or fibrous roots. The horizontal expansion of the vetiver root system is limited up to only 50cm. The root vertical penetration expends up to 5 meters.

Inflorescence seed and seedling:

Vetiver inflorescence is erect and appears in the form of a panicle. After pollination, the sessile Spikelet that is hermaphrodite flower produces seeds. The grass specie imported in our country V. zizanioides does not produce seed and cannot spread like a serious weed.


A cluster, as shrub or trees. A clump is formed when a plant produces numerous tillers in all directions. The clumps diameter is about 30 cm with a height of 150-200cm.

What are the uses of vetiver parts

We can make use of every part of the vetiver grass as follows:

Culm/ leaf:


B. Vetiver grass multiplication techniques

Multiplication can be through:

Since vetiver rarely produces seed the only reproduction method is through asexual means. Hence the above stated plant parts can be used for propagation. Commonly used parts for propagation are:

Tillers: A shoots growing from the base of the stem of the plant. It is the most popular part of the plant used in propagation since it is available in large quantity, employs simple technique, and gives good results.

Slips: a stem, root, twigs, etc. cut or broken of a plant and used for planting and grafting: cutting: scion. Many authors used this term synonymously with tiller.

Culm: The whole clump can be transplanted in the field or separated out in to individual tillers.

Plantlet: Differentiated tiny plant developed through tissue culture technique. With this method an unlimited number of pantalets can be produced in aseptic conditions from the ex plants such as shoot tips, lateral funds, young inflorescence etc. Upon attaining a good size these pantalets can be planted in containers or in fields similar to tillers.

Methods of propagation

Several methods of using plant parts are employed through out the world. The commonly used part of the vetiver plant for propagation here in our country because of convenience, economics and availability is the tiller. Widely practised ways of multiplying vetiver grass are with or without containers. That is with polybages and bare- rooted.

Planting in polybags:

This method of propagation is both clean and easy to maintain. Two types of polybages are used for propagation namely: small polybags for field planting and large polybags for multiplication.

Small bags for field planting:

Tiller preparation for plolybag multiplication

Soil mix

Arranging and space requirement for bags

Planting and care

Multiplication on cultivated plots (Bare rooted plants)

Techniques involved are:

C Types of users:

  1. Small and large farmers
  2. Conservationists
  3. Water authorities
  4. High way engineers
  5. Aromatic industries
  6. Traditional medicines
  7. Crop protection industries
  8. Others


D Vetiver usage for soil and water conservation

Before discussing the contribution of vetiver for SWC it is advisable to compare and contrast vetiver contour hedgerow systems with other similar systems.

1) Non- vetiver contour hedgerow systems:

As generalisation, Sloping Agricultural land Technology, Alley cropping and some agroferstry systems are contour technologies based on hedgerows. The main soil conservation functions of contour hedgerows are:

2) Contour hedgerows of vetiver grass:

E. Application of vetiver on farm lands:

Vetiver grass can be applied on farmland mainly to protect the soil from erosion and for moisture conservation purposes.

The grass can be effectively applied on:

Planting and management Techniques:

Vetiver plantation on existing structures: the main purpose of planting on existing structures is to stabilise and conserve moisture. The procedures to follow are as follows:

Waterways and cut-off drains:

Due to the extent of damage and water / runoff passing through these structures, vetiver planting should be carried out in dense clumps.

Around ponds and reservoirs:

Vetiver planting on ponds and reservoirs helps prevent salutation of water sources and chemical substances from flowing into the systems. This controls water quality so as to be acceptable for human consumption and for raising aquatic animals.

Plant three rows of vetiver around reservoirs. One row should be grown around the edges and the second row should be grown around the edges and the second row 20cm above the first and the third row 20cm below first row (normally the water will not reach the detention level). Bare rooted vetiver can be used for these activities as there is in no moisture limitation in the system. Six to seven well-grown tillers can be planted in one station very close together at an interval of not more than5cm between plants.

Two rows of vetiver are recommended to protect ponds form salutation and other external debris. The first row should be placed 50cm away from pond edges and water entrance and the second 20cm from the first row. Staggered planting is recommended. Apply the same spacing and number of tillers used for reservoir.

Irrigation and drainage canal:

Plant vetiver in rows on both sides along the irrigation of drainage canal with 50cm spacing away from the canals. Planting interval recommended is a 5-10 cm and 4-5 tiller per spot. With this method one can easily control the salutation of the canal by filtering and trapping sediments that come from the upper stream. At the same time, the hedgerows can minimise evapo transpiration and help to stabilise the sides of the canal.

Check dams

For gully control, vetiver should be planted in inverted “V” shape and let to extend along the length at different altitude level in a fishbone pattern, with 1m interval in order to retard gully erosion and allow water to penetrate in to the soil. Sandbags or stones can be placed before or after to reinforce the hedgerows.

Another pattern is to plant vetiver horizontally across the length to trap silt, which eventually fill the gully. The number of rows depends on the size of the gully. The inter row spacing should be closer towards the gully bed than the upper part of the gully. In all cases, it advisable to use containerised plats for fast establishment.

Close planting of vetiver above the gully head in two rows g is advisable.

Micro basin

Macro basin constructed from the vetiver grass is mainly used to conserve moisture (in-situ reservoir), control erosion and improve soil fertility (mulching the cut grass). Besides, it also protects the invasion noxious grass that spread through rhizome. The grass should be planted 50cm away from forest trees and 1.5m from fruit orchards. Single row and 4-5 tillers [per spot at interval of 5 cm are recommended to get immediate effects in very short period. The shape of the micro basin is usually semi-circle.


Vetiver grass technology can be applied to prevent the damage of road shoulders road crossings.

F. Cost of production and establishment:

Bare-rooted seedling Production ( GTZ IFSP experience)

The following are the common practices and requirements in a typical vetiver nursery:


Activities against labor and cost based on the specifications and norms for production per season

(Bare rooted)

S/N Activity Norm PD/ha. Cost (Birr)
1 Land preparation

-- 1st plow

-- 2nd plow







2 Plantation 800 m2/PD 12.5 50.00
3 Management


Weeding and cult.


Fertilisation ( green














4 Up rooting, tiller splitting 100m2/PD 100 400.00
  Total production labor cost   1117.5 4470.00

In terms of grain it will be 1117.5 PDx3kg/PD= 3352.5 Kg=33.53 Quintals.

Price per quintal is Birr 265.00 (current price) hence, 33.53 Quintal cost Birr 8885.00

Based on the above figures the unit cost of single tillers would be:

  1. if the nursery is run with cash: Birr 4470 / 2000000 tillers/ha.= Birr 0.0022/tiller
  2. If run with FfW: Birr 8885.00/2000000 tillers/ha. =Birr.0044/tiller

* 1 the figure is reached according to the detail on the table below.

*2 Watering is required at three days irrigation frequency for a period of one day, and 4PD is needed to irrigate a ha of land. Accordingly 10 days irrigation per month is essential. Thus 200pd per

Production period is necessary.

*3 Weeding and cultivation twice per month is essential. Thus for production period 500pd is required.

*4 Trimming per a month is required. Thus 125pd is essential for the production period


Production With Bag

The following are the specifications applied for poly bag vetiver propagation:


Area of the nursery: -1 Ha (assumption)

Water supply: -using irrigation

Nursery lay out: -20m x 1m bed

-1m path between bed

-2meters between block

-4 meter around the boundary and in the middle of nursery

Sizes of polybages: -Small 6cm-diameter and 15 cm length

No of beds/ha: - Big 10-cm diameter and 20cm

No of polybags/ ha: -937,000 for small size poly bags and 352,000 bigger sized

No of bed /ha. -176 bed

No of polybags/bed -5328 for small size poly bag -2000 for big bag

No of sleeves /kg of polythene roll: -1500 for small and 800 for big bags

No of tillers/ bag for production period: -5 for smaller and 15 for bigger bag

No of tiller. Ha. for different bag sizes:

-Smaller sized (937,000x5)=4,685,000.

-Bigger sized (352,000x15)= 5,280,000

Labor cost/day -Birr4.00 OR 3kg of grain

Cost of 100kg grain -Birr 265.00

Cost of 3kgof grain -Birr 7.95


Activities against labor and cost based on the specifications and norms for production period: ( containerized)

S/N Activities Norm PD/Ha


Cost in cash (Birr


Cost in grain (Birr)


      Small Big Small Big Small Big
1 Soil preparation for Bag filling 0.5PD/m3 788 4426 3152 17704 6265 35187
2 Bag filling 500Bag/PD 1875 704 7500 2816 14906 5597
3 Land preparation 100m2 /PD 100 100 400 400 795 795
4 Bag arrangement 1PD/Bed 176 176 704 704 1399 1399
5 Plantation 6000 Bags/ Pd 156 58 624 232 1240 461
6 Management


-Weeding and cultivation


-Fertilisation( green manuring )





























7 Total   3885 6013 15540 24756 30886 49203

Polythene tubes required for a hectare of Nursery:

625 Kg for smaller bag

440 Kg for gibber bag

Cost of polythene bags: Birr18/kg x 625Kg = Birr 11250 (Small bags)

Birr 25/Kg x 440 Kg =Birr 11000 (Bigger bags)

Total Cost of Production in Birr:

Birr 11250 +15540 =26790 (smaller bags)

Birr 11000 =24756 = 35756 (bigger bags)

Total cost in grain:

Birr 11250 +30886 =Birr 42136 (smaller bags)

Birr 11000+ 49203 = Birr 60203 (bigger Bags)

Cost per tiller in grain:

Smaller sized bag Birr 42136/4,685,000=0.009

Bigger sized bag Birr 6003/5,280,00=0.01

Cost per tiller in cash:

-Smaller sized bag Birr 26790/4,685,000=0.006

-Bigger sized bag Birr 35756/5,280,000=0.007

Number of tillers/linear meter length

-4tillers/spot x10 spots = 40tillers

Number of tillers/km

-40 tillers/meter x 1000meters/ day/ person

Capacity of daily worker for planting

-On an average 200 meters /day/person

Cost estimate for vetiver grass multiplication with Bare rooted and containerised methods, using cash and FfW AND Establishment cost at field level on different slope ranges. VI is adopted from the BOA Amhara Region










( c)





with cash




with Grain





Total cost of Establishment /ha in cash (Birr)


Total cost of treatment/ha in grain







Bare rooted Small bags Bigger




(g) Smaller




Bare rooted Small


big bag Bare


3 1 302 12080 72.00 85.00 27.00 109.00 121.00 53.00 24.00 96.00 109.00 51.00 133.00 145.00 77.00
7 1 698 27920 168.00 195.00 61.00 251.00 279.00 123.00 56.00 224.00 251.00 117.00 307 335.00 179.00
9 1 897 35880 215.00 251.00 79.00 323.00 359.00 158.00 72.00 287.00 323.00 152.00 395.00 431.00 230.00
15 1 1485 59400 356.00 416.00 131.00 535.00 594.00 261.00 119.00 475.00 535.00 250.00 654.00 713.00 388.00
21 1.5 1370 54800 329.00 384.00 121.00 483.00 548.00 241.00 110.00 439.00 494.00 231.00 593.00 658.00 351.00
25 1.5 1617 64680 388.00 453.00 142.00 582.00 647.00 285.00 129.00 517.00 582.00 271.00 711.00 776.00 414.00
27 2.0 1303 52120 313.00 365.00 115.00 469.00 521.00 229.00 104.00 417.00 469.00 219.00 573.00 625.00 333.00
29 2.0 1393 55720 334.00 390.00 123.00 501.00 557.00 245.00 111.00 445.00 501.00 234.00 612.00 668.00 356.00
30 2.0 1437 57480 345.00 402.00 126.00 517.00 575.00 253.00 460.00 460.00 517.00 241.00 632.00 690.00 368.00

Terrace length per respective slope ranges, labor, costs required for the construction of the commonly implemented Physical SWC measures against FfW and Cash (maintenance not included)





Adjusted terrace


Labor required for construction/Ha


Labor cost for construction

with cash


Labor cost for construction

with grain


    (m) Stone bund Fanya juu Soil bund Stone bund Fanya juu Soil bund Stone bund Fanya juu Soil bund
3 1 302 45 75 30 180 300 120 358 596 238
7 '' 698 104 174 70 416 696 280 827 1383 556
9 '' 897 134 224 90 536 896 360 1065 1781 715
15 '' 1485 222 371 148 888 1484 592 1765 2949 1177
21 1.5 1370 204 342 137 816 1368 548 1622 2719 1089
25   1617 241 404 162 964 1616 648 1916 3212 1288
27 2. 1303 194 326 130 776 1304 520 1542 2592 1033
29   1393 208 348 139 832 1392 556 1654 2767 1105
30 '' 1437 214 359 144 856 1436 576 1701 2854 1145

Work norms accepted in the region for:

-Stone bund 150 PD/OR 6.7 meters/pd

-Fayna juu Terrace 250 PD/km OR 4 meters/PD

-Soil Bund 100 PD/km 10 meters /PD (revised norm)

Possible land that can be covered from a hectare of vetiver Nursery production on

Different slopes and production methods.



Accepted VI Terrace



No of tillers required/ha. Area that can be covered from hectare of nursery using


        Smaller Bag


Bigger bags


Bare rooted


3 1.0 302 12080 388 437 166
7   698 27920 168 189 72
9   897 35880 131 147 56
15   1485 59400 79 89 37
21 1.5 1370 54800 85 96 36
25   1617 646800 72 82 31
27 2.0 1303 52120 90 101 38
29   1393 55720 84 95 36
30   1437 57480 82 92 35

Treatment cost a hectare of farm land using vetiver and other commonly applied SWC control measures in the region (slope 30%)

Kind of SWC measure


Length of terraces OR hedgerows/ ha at 30% slope



Norm for treatment (PD)

( c)

Labor per ha (PD)


Total Labor cost for treating one hectare of farm land


Cash Grain

Cost of prod. of vetiver with bigger bags



Cash Grain

Total cost of treatment



Cash Grain

Fayna juu 1.437 250 PD/Km 359 1436.00 2854.00 nil nil 1436.00 2854.00
Soil bund 1.437 100 PD/Km 144 576 1145.00 nil nil 576.00 1145.00
Stone bund 1.437 150 PD/km 215 860.00 1709.00 nil nil 860.00 1709.00
Vetiver 1.437 5pd/km 7.2 29.00 57.00 402 575 431.00 631.00


No. of tillers required per hectare at 30% will be approximately 57480

Production cost per tiller is Birr 0.007 if paid with cash and Birr 0.01 if paid with grain (bigger bags)

After having seen all the Characteristics, usage's and management aspects of vetiver and its technology, one has to further decide which of the propagation methods are worth follow for wider expansion off the grass in our region or elsewhere. In order to help the decision process one has to set certain criterion. Most selected are:

S/N Criterion for management Decision Propagation methods
    Bare tooted containerised /bags remarks
1 Labor utilisation
  • Needs special skill

- Can be worked out with casual labourers

-At very beginning of establishment

-No addition skill is required

2 Cost

- Production

- Transportation

-Relatively cheaper

-More plants can be transported in a time

-Cheaper than bigger bags

-In middle

-Are generally more expensive and time consuming

-Bulky pots pose more storage and transportation

3 Maintenance ( Weeding, Trimming, Up rooting Etc.)

- Easy of the methods

- Requires special tools

- Irrigation

- Fertilisation

-Very easy to plant

-No special tool

-Easy and with gravity irrigation

-Broadcasting and easy to apply

-Easy needs bags


4 Production /Ha.

- No of tillers per production Season

- Obtain healthy plant

- Time required to get average No of tillers/ season

-Approx. 2,000000/ha

-Attacked by soil borne diseases

-Very slow

5 Recorded rate of survival in

-The nursery

-In the field

-Lower than with bag

-Very poor in specially in moisture stressed areas





6 Immediate effect ( under go greening process

-In the field for critical area

Very slow and poor effect Very good Very good
7 Labor requirement for planting in the field needs more labor less less
9 Time in the nursery Time in the nursery is longer Very short Very short
10 Damages during uprooting &transportation shock More damages during lifting up from the nursery and transportation    
11 Start up time for new nursery Very long process    

G. Socio - Economic Advantages

From experience, Vetiver grass Technology (VGT) has many advantages and benefits over the physical SWC measures for our region and else where in the country. A survey had been conducted in the southwestern part of the country where the VGT has wide range of applications. The result of the study indicates that the VGT acceptance by the end-users has significantly increased both in area coverage and beneficiaries.

Increases area of farming land compare to other SWC measures.

Unlike the physical SWC measures that occupy between 10 to 14% of the farmers farmlands, vetiver hedgerows occupy only 1-2% of farmlands. This indirectly help to avoid farmers complain and resistance not to participate in SWC programs.

Increase Soil Fertility

Presumably the good crop stand seen in the sedimented soil

Possible Income source

Selling the grass for different uses has increased the acceptances and expansion. Farmers sell the grass to be used for coffee and other casual ceremonies

To cover large areas in very short period

Gender sensitive

Running nurseries will gradually ceases

After three to four years of the introduction of the can easily be distributed not from the nurseries but from the established contour hedgerows. This condition will decrease management costs of nurseries and helps farmers gain additional incomes from sell of the grass.

Quick and recognisable success

The technology has produced a recognisable success with one year of its introduction .As a result it has got better credit than any other SWC technologies ever introduced

It fits the local farming system

Each farmer seeks to raise the income of his/her total farm operation. The application of the technology will not interferes with its normal operation. Instead it will complement the operation.

Ecologically safe

No adverse effect has been traced back so far in the utilisation of the technology.

H. The Seven commandments for effective and successful application of Vetiver grassTechnology

I. Criterion to evaluating the Vetiver Grass Technology:

J. Reference:

Vetiver news letters

THAI workshop proceedings

GTZ IFSP Experience

National Reports on Vetiver