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Script 43.3

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Vetiver grass (Vetiver zizanioides) can stop your soil from running away from home. Farmers all over the world use it to prevent soil from eroding on hillsides. It may work for you.

If you plant vetiver close together in a row it makes a thick hedge.

This hedge slows the flow of water down a slope. Then the water can soak slowly into the soil.

Also, soil can collect beside the hedge and form a stable terrace in a few years. A vetiver hedge keeps water and soil nutrients in your field. When you keep water and nutrients in the soil, your crop yields will increase.

Vetiver has many other valuable qualities. It is a perennial grass that grows in most types of soil. It grows in almost any climate although it does not grow well in a very dry climate. Vetiver grass will also grow in difficult conditions – drought, flooding, and long periods of wet weather. It can survive pests, fire and grazing animals. Its young leaves are good animal fodder.

Vetiver will not compete with your main crops because the roots grow straight down and don’t spread sideways. Also, the plants produce very few seeds that will grow into new plants. So you don’t have to worry about it spreading.

You can easily make a vetiver hedge. It is inexpensive to plant and take care of, and it doesn’t take much space on your land.

How to make a vetiver hedge

First you will have to find some vetiver grass. Check a local nursery or a botanical garden. Or ask an extension worker or local farming group. They may know where it is available.

Always plant vetiver at the beginning of the rainy season when the ground is wet. It will then survive droughts that last as long as 9 or 10 months.

What you want to do is plant one or more rows of vetiver across the slope of your field, along the contour. Then plant your crops in between the rows of vetiver.

First, find and mark the contour across the slope of your field. You will have to decide how far apart to make the hedges so that you can easily work in between them.

Next, plough a furrow along the line. Put a little compost or manure into the furrow. You will plant the vetiver in this furrow.

Dig out a clump of vetiver grass with a spade. Then split it into individual stems with attached roots. These are called slips. Cut the tops of each slip off about 15 to 20 centimetres (6-8 inches) above the base.

Cut the roots 10 centimetres (4 inches) below the base. This will keep the vetiver from drying out.

Make a hole in the furrow, and put two or three plants into the hole.

Firm the soil around them. Make sure all the roots are pointing downward. Plant the next clump 10-15 centimetres (4-6 inches) away in the furrow on the contour line. Continue until the whole row is planted.

Wait four to six weeks until the plants are established. Then fill in any gaps in the row with new plants. If you do not have any new plants, bend some stems from a nearby plant and bury them in the gap.

Keep the hedges trimmed to a height of 30-50 centimetres. This helps them grow well and keeps them from shading other crops. You should cut the vetiver before it flowers.

Before the hedge is fully grown you may want to stop water from running off your field by ploughing a small furrow just behind the hedge one month after planting.

It will take between 9 months and 4 years for your hedge to fill in completely. The soil caught behind the vetiver hedge will form terraces after a few years.


Note

Common names for vetiver grass:

China: Xiang-Geng-chao
Costa Rica: zacate violeta
Ethiopia/Amharic:Yesero mekelakeya
Ghana/Dagomba: Kulikarili
India:/Hindi: Bala, Bena, Ganrar, Khas, Onei, Panni
Urdu: Khas
Bengali: Khas-Khas
Gujarati: Valo
Marathi: Vala Khas-Khas
Oudh: Tin
Punjabi: Panni
Sadani: Birni
Santali: Sirom
Kannada: Vettiveeru, Laamanche, Kaadu, hallu
Iran/Persian: Bikhiwala, Khas
Malaysia: Nara wastu, Nara setu, Naga setu, wangi
Nigeria:
Hausa: Jema
Fulani: So’dornde, So’mayo, Cho’dor’de, Zemako
Philippines: Ilib, Mora, Moras, Moro, Muda, Giron
Senegal:
Wolof: Sep, Tiep
Fulani: Toul
Tukulor: Semban
Sierra Leone:
Mende: Pindi
Susu: Barewali
Temne: An-wunga ro-gban
Sri Lanka/Sinhalese: Saivandera, Svandramul
Thailand: Faeg

Acknowledgements

  • This script was written by Vijay Cuddeford, a student of sustainable agriculture at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada. The production of this script was made possible with the generous support of the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, Toronto, Canada.

Information Sources

  • Vetiver grass, 30 page pamphlet. EcoLink, P.O. Box 727, White River 1240, South Africa.
  • Soil and water conservation technologies (SWC) and agroforestry systems, 1992. International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), Silang 4118, Cavite, Philippines.
  • Vetiver grass for soil and water conservation, land rehabilitation, and embankment stabilization: a collection of papers and newsletters compiled by the Vetiver Network, edited by Richard G. Brimshaw and Larisa Helfer, 1995, World Bank Technical Paper Number 273. The World Bank, 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20433, U.S.A. Tokyo office: Kokusai Building, 1-1, Marunouchi 3-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100, Japan.
  • How to plant vetiver, by Jim Smyle, in Vetiver Newsletter: newsletter of the Vetiver Network, Number 16, November 1996, page 36. The Vetiver Network, 15 Wirt Street, Leesburg, Virginia 22075, U.S.A.