The Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is geographically endemic to the continent of India. Vetiver is endemic to the tropical and sub-tropical climate. It can adapt and grow well up to from 0 to 1500 meters over the sea level. The more important natural element that Vetiver grass needs is plenty of natural light. And in the first 3-6 month it also needs to be able to absorb enough water to start the growth process. Once it has started growing the fine and deep root system there is almost no risk of driving out. The excessive and massive vetiver root system with be able to obtain water and all the needed nutrients even from depleted soils.
As you may know PermaTree focuses on Holistic Regenerative Ecosystem Design. Which means in other words explained – We create natural systems which are fully able to re-generate them-selfs automatically. For obvious reasons those smart-systems, take a while to get started depending on the surrounding and the entire system. The base philosophy continue to be the tropical permaculture principles. A good example of a regenerative process would be a reforestation. Where there is a lot of inicial work but on the long-term nature takes care of the rest. Vetiver grass fits perfectly into a Re-generative plant. Once it’s been transplanted successfully and has started amplifying its extensive root system. It will have a true positive outcome not only in the soil with the root system but also for the top soil.
It’s know as key element in bioengineering. This is one of the reasons why vetiver grass is a key component in tropical climate soil enhancing systems. Most tropical permaculture system use vetiver grass. It is also widely used on know syntropic farming operations to create biomass from the pruning of the vetiver. Like most plants in the tropics just by pruning the plant or cutting it lower, this activity will give more motivation to the plant to continue expanding vertically with the root system as well ad over the ground level enhancing its circular width. Some vetiver plants may grow over 100 centimeters of circular width! Vetiver grass roots have been reported to achieve depths of up to 1 and even 3 meters!
First time I discovered the Vetiver grass, was in the year 2015 while visiting, Piet Sabe, located between Esmeralda and Ibarra in Ecuador.
He was all-ready actively using Vetiver gras to reforest depleted steep hill in his tropical farm.
Piet was very keen to show us how it was used. https://vetiver.bospas.org
Then since 2016 at Finca Yantza while exploring for solutions to control the steep farm soil and top soil from the erosion due to tropical rainfall. I stumbled again over this Vetiver grass. Later educating myself on Vetiver Network International I discovered 1’000 of other use-cases for the vetiver grass.
We have transplanted Vetiver Grass in conjunction with Arachis Pintoi between the permaculture food forest at Finca Yantza. There is another article exploring how that was done: Adaptive Contour and Erosion Control with Vetiver grass and Arachis Pintoi.
Historically over the last 5’000 years Vetiver was primarily known and used for the sweet scented vetiver roots, for the production of essential oils, and now today for the perfume-industry.
The Vetiver grass is absolutely not only limited to stop erosion and building topsoil.
Erosion Control With Vetiver Grass
Top natural solution for erosion control due to its capacity to absorb large amounts of water, along with the binding nature of its root system. The plants create an overall “negative pore pressure” in soils. This further reduces risk of failure and improves soil stability.
Vetiver Grass Crop Field
Transporting Vetiver Grass
Transplanting Vetiver Grass
Once you have mature Vetiver grass you can harvest from your existing plants and transplant that within other spaces on your farm.
Vetiver Grass For Erosion Control on Hedgerows
On the above photos you can see how Vetiver grass was implemented within the terracing. On a large scale. Transplanted mostly within depleted orange clay soil. We transplanted vetiver within existing tropical fruit crops such as Soursop and it has enhanced the productivity of the crops.
Pruning The Vetiver Grass
The pruning of the vetiver grass at its right time works like a carbon bomb.
When vetiver grass grows, it reaches a maximum growth point (2 meters), where it stops growing and prepares for flowering. There is the ideal time for its cut, since its roots have also been expressed as much as possible under the ground. In terms of energy saving, the grass, being pruned aerially, immediately cuts its roots, releasing all fertility to the soil. Then, we let the grass grow to its maximum potential, so that it accumulates or “captures” the maximum carbon (load) and then we cut it (it is unloaded). This works like a two-phase carbon pump, with a charge pulse and a discharge pulse.
Video: Pruning Vetiver Grass
Pruning of vetiver fences up to a height of 30 to 50 cm. Makes them thicker and consequently more effective in filtering runoff water and erosion.