by ALEMU MEKONNEN, GTZ IFSP S/GONDER , ETHIOPIA , June 2000
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:
- Trapping crop residues and silt eroded by runoff
- Roof thatching
- As raw material for making paper
- Making ropes mats hats, baskets, etc.
- Since the digestibility of the mature top is 52%, it is readily eaten by dairy cow , horses, goats, and others. Good for bedding etc.
- Yield levels under fertile and moist conditions can be as high as 100 tons/ ha. normally 15-30 tons/ha
- Mulching, conserving the ground of animal stables
- As planting material for mushroom culture and making compost
- Mattress stuffing, making brooms
- Ornamental plant
- When burned 56% of the leaf volume turns into charcoal
- Adsorbing water and maintaining soil moisture
- Absorbing minerals and nutrients
- Decomposed as organic matter, thus making the soil friable
- Absorbing toxic substances in chemical fertilisers and pesticides
- Improve the physical element of the soil
- Making herbs and skin care substances
- extracting volatile oils for making perfume and aromatic ingredients in sops
- As insect and rodent repellents
- Powdered for use in religious ceremonies
- Vetiver roots can produce dry matter 100-150kg/700m2 area. In one year this 2-3kg of oil can be distilled from this.
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:
- The size of the polybags is 6 cm wide cm wide and 12-15 cm long when filled with soil weighs 200 grams.
- Appropriate to use under various development projects in the initial stages of an operation
- It easy to develop and keep record of the number of bags and tillers
- Suitable for direct transplanting on the land for soil and water conservation
- Ensures a better survival rate and faster establishment of the vetiver grass
- In forty five days 5-7 tillers can be produced/bag
- Large polybags for multiplication:
- Size 10cm wide and 15-25 cm long bags when filled have 15- 20cm diameter
- Produces a large number of tillers; collectively called clumps
- They can be kept in polybags for an extended period
- Suitable for further multiplication or for separating in to individual tillers for large scale transplanting.
- When filled with soil can weigh 500-600kg
- In four months time it will produce 25 tillers/bag
Tiller preparation for plolybag multiplication
- Collect the tillers form dependable sources, having plants that are over 4 months old and fully matured
- Separate/divide the clump in to smaller -sized tillers with 1-2 young shoots
- Cut off the shoot and the roots as short as possible; 10cm for shoot and 5-7cm for root
- Peel the old outer sheath off and clean it with water
- Gather it into small bundles and dip in water for one day
- Then place the bundle together in pile with the base covered with cut of vetiver leaves of jute sacks
- Water the bundle and leave them in the shade for 4-6 days
- When new shoots and roots come out, put 1-2 tillers in the bags
- Dipping in animal dung /slurry proved to successful for better survival
- Bags should be half full and be filled after the vetiver is put in.
- Soil used for Polybag filling should have good drainage capacity. The most accepted and widely used mix/ ratio is 1:2:1: for composed soil, sand and farm yard manure respectively. If the soil is sandy by nature it is not necessary to mix with sand.
- In terms of labour for filling the mixture and arranging the bags, 1 skilful worker can manage about 400-500 small bags and 200-300 bigger bags per day. On average 500/ day
Arranging and space requirement for bags
- After subtracting utility area from net production, which is 25%, one can produce about 937,000 and 352,000 polybags of smaller and bigger sized per hectare respectively.
Planting and care
- Tillers should be planted in the bags when the soil or the mixture of soil still has moisture, and the mixture should not be dry before planting. Watering should be provided continually. When the leaves grow 50cm they should be cut back regularly in order to enhance Tillering and for limiting the age for some ecotypes that produce florets rapidly. Fertilisation mainly use of chemical fertilisers is important to ensure quality and healthy plants in a very short time. Most common chemical fertilisers are DAP and Urea. The recommended dose is 100 grams of DAP or Urea/10 square meters for small bags by sowing and watering simultaneously every week. For bigger-sized bags half teaspoonful per bag every month.
Multiplication on cultivated plots (Bare rooted plants)
- The second and most common multiplication method that is widely practised in our country and region is production of bare rooted seedling.
- It should be applied in irrigated areas or where there is a good watering system because such condition favours mass year- round production of vetiver tillers.
Techniques involved are:
- Prepare soil in the planting plot
- Water the plot the thoroughly before planting
- Prepare the planting material; cut the top and roots to remain 20 and 10 cm long respectively.
- If the plant comes from a bare rooted nursery, when dividing in to tillers it would be best to tear where they separate better to keep a long root than a short root
- Peel off the outer sheath, clean the tillers with water bind together in bunch and
- Soak the root part in water for five to seven days (95% survival has been recorded with this system)
- Select those that have developed toots for planting
- prepare open furrows
- Add compost or chemical fertile at the bottom before planting OR
- Dip the tillers in dilute sewage or slurry just before planting
- Plant two to three tillers per station dont plant so deep into the hole and the soil should be moist
- Tillers should be placed in double rows at 40-50 cm spacing between the plant and between rows. For raised bed techniques, the bed is one meter wide and one meter spacing between the beds.
- for with out raised bed techniques, the spacing of 40x40 cm2 can be applied for both between plant and rows. After planting six rows walking space of 1-1.10m should be left alternatively.
- If water source is form rain them the best tie for multiplying by this method ( without raised bed) is between June and August.
- On both methods after 4-5 months each clump will produce 40-50 tillers
- On raised bed technique 40x40 m2 of the area can accommodate 20 raised beds. Each bed requires 160 tillers and (40x40) m2 3200 tillers.
- After 4-5 months 40x40 m2 of the area can produce120,000-150,000 tillers (raised bed system), and in one hectare between 750,000-937,000 tillers
- The good quality vetiver tillers are usually obtained from the multiplication fields where they are properly planted and card, and with proper age such as more than 4 months old but not exceeding one year
- Tillering results other than raised bed system shows that in 4-5 months time 40-50 tillers will be produced per clump. The spacing between plant and rows is 40x40cm respectively. In 0.16 m2 area we will have four stations and in 1 ha. there will be 62500 station or lumps. Each clump that is well managed will generate 40-50 tillers after 4-5 months (say on average 45 tillers). With this calculation, 62500 clumps will produce 2,812,500 tillers. If the productive area from one hectare of nursery is only 75% than the production will be approximately 2,000,000 subtracting all loses that might occur during and after production.
- for management and irrigation purposes row planting is strongly recommended
- Nursery must have adequate moisture and sufficient sunshine for better growth of seedlings. Basal manure and water should applied when seedlings ate planted.
- Every day, water the plants until the grass gets well established
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
-- 1st plow
-- 2nd plow
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 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)
|Cost in cash (Birr
|Cost in grain (Birr)
|1||Soil preparation for Bag filling||0.5PD/m3||788||4426||3152||17704||6265||35187|
|3||Land preparation||100m2 /PD||100||100||400||400||795||795|
|5||Plantation||6000 Bags/ Pd||156||58||624||232||1240||461|
-Weeding and cultivation
-Fertilisation( green manuring )
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
|Total cost of Establishment /ha in
|Total cost of treatment/ha in grain
|Bare rooted||Small bags||Bigger
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)
|Labor required for construction/Ha
|Labor cost for construction
|Labor cost for construction
|(m)||Stone bund||Fanya juu||Soil bund||Stone bund||Fanya juu||Soil bund||Stone bund||Fanya juu||Soil bund|
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.
|No of tillers required/ha.||Area that can be covered from hectare
of nursery using
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)
|Labor per ha (PD)
|Total Labor cost for treating one
hectare of farm land
|Cost of prod. of vetiver with bigger
|Total cost of treatment
|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|
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|
- Can be worked out with casual labourers
|-At very beginning of establishment
-No addition skill is required
-More plants can be transported in a time
|-Cheaper than bigger bags
|-Are generally more expensive and time
-Bulky pots pose more storage and transportation
|3||Maintenance ( Weeding, Trimming, Up
- Easy of the methods
- Requires special tools
|-Very easy to plant
-No special tool
-Easy and with gravity irrigation
-Broadcasting and easy to apply
|-Easy needs bags
- No of tillers per production Season
- Obtain healthy plant
- Time required to get average No of tillers/ season
-Attacked by soil borne diseases
|5||Recorded rate of survival in
-In the field
|-Lower than with bag
-Very poor in specially in moisture stressed areas
|6||Immediate effect ( under go greening
-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|
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
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.
No adverse effect has been traced back so far in the utilisation of the technology.
Vetiver news letters
THAI workshop proceedings
GTZ IFSP Experience
National Reports on Vetiver