Blog Vetiver Network International

Watts Bridge Airfield, Queensland, Vetiver Waste Water treatment update

Watts Bridge constructed Vetiver wetland
Coordinates: -27.099224º  152.459996º
This constructed wetland has been operating since 2005 and is still working well. So well that effluent throughput could be doubled. Here is some comparative data from one of the test wells (#4) for years 2008 and (2017): pH:7 (6.5); P mg/l: 1.2 (0.25); Ammonium N: 0.13 (0.1); Nitrite N: 003 (0.022); Nitrate N: 0.097 (0.063), Nitrite + Nitrate N: 0.01 (0.041); Fecal coliform du/100ml: <10 (10). This system was installed by Paul Truong (Veticon). Note that out of the four test wells only well #4 had water in it. All the others were dry in 2017.  

This link takes you to an earlier presentation by Paul Truong including images and details: 

This  type of vetiver application is highly replicable, low cost and efficient

"The Father of Vetiver", John Greenfield died at his home in New Zealand on February 25 2017. John often reminded us that as agriculturists we had only 30 to 40 seasons to attempt to make significant change during our professional careers. He certainly succeeded in doing so, and today tens of thousands of people in the tropical world have benefited from his insights and actions on soil and moisture conservation and the application of the Vetiver System. He was a very practical hands on agronomist and conservationist whose work was always well based on science. He understood what he saw, and was able to create practical common sense solutions from those observations. We know him affectionately as "The Father of Vetiver" - and he is well known to many people through the simple hand book "Vetiver Grass - A Hedge Against Erosion" - a handbook that had to fit in the shirt pocket of a farmer! and one that has been translated into countless languages. 
I personally knew John since 1985 when he came to work with me in India. He became a good friend and colleague. We had many great times together in India, and after, from a distance promoting the Vetiver System around the globe. His was not a wasted life, but one of action, one that will continue to impact for a very, very, long time into the future on many thousands users of the Vetiver System in many different ways. John was always looking to help the world's small rainfed farmers. The best tribute to him would be for those people working with and advising this group of farmers, to make greater efforts to introduce the Vetiver System and the very unique plant that it is based on. Those who work with small farmers might like to read this: ALLEVIATING POVERTY IN THE THIRD WORLD -- THIS IS ALL IT TAKES!
Emerging from John's "Vetiver Grass Technology" based soil and water conservation focused work has been, in recent years, a series of bioengineering and phytoremediation applications that could have a profound impact on our environment at this time of climate change. 
Our thoughts are with Sandra (his long time partner) and his children.

Dick Grimshaw. February 25 2017

The Vetiver System supports Community Resilience at a time of uncertainty - Part 2 - Water
Figure 1: water oozing from spring line (PC- Anno Farms)
This is the second article about using the Vetiver System to help build community resilience in these uncertain times when many communities can expect little support from government or others to deal with increasing problems created by climate change, continuing poverty, and very limited financial resources. 

As noted in Part 1 most rural people in the tropics and semi arid areas are poor, and, even when out of poverty, most are unable to manage the environmental crises that currently, and in the future, will confront them. Most communities worry about being able to make a decent living from their small farms or businesses, they worry about the quality and availability of their water supply, they worry about potential disasters that may isolate them from neighboring communities and services, they worry about educating their children, and they see continuing and unabated health challenges often linked to environmental and social mismanagement.  These concerns are magnified because most communities lack access to low cost technologies that might help them overcome some of their problems. The Vetiver System (VS) is one of a number of technologies that can help them. VS is low cost, relatively simple to understand, safe, and over the past 30 years is well proven.

The Vetiver Grass Technology, (VGT) used for decades by farmers in south India as a tool for soil conservation, was reintroduced and "institutionalized" by John Greenfield of New Zealand whilst he was working for the World Bank in India in the 1980s.  At that time the objective was to establish VGT as a more appropriate erosion control technology than the traditional engineered contour bunds. Later VGT formed the basis of a number of other applications that collectively are known as the Vetiver System (VS), these will be reviewed in future posts to this blog.

This article discusses the application of VGT for sustained and improved water supplies that meet community needs. The availability of water and its quality has become of prime importance to sustaining human and animal life on our planet. This is of primary importance to many poor communities, both in urban and rural areas. A more reliable supply will reduce risks and costs, and for farmers assure crop and livestock benefits. VGT hedgerows as noted in part 1 will increase soil moisture and will enhance groundwater. Hedgerows reduce rainfall runoff by as much as 70%, and provide, by some estimates, 20% recharge of ground water.  Reduced runoff and recharge results in better down catchment flows, stronger spring flows, sustainable well water supplies, and fuller surface reservoirs. 

The following two images from Anno Farm in Ethiopia show oozing spring lines and a perennial flow of water due mainly to the enhanced recharge associated with 250km of vetiver hedgerows planted on the adjacent upslope 500 ha of farmland .
Figure 2 This channel has captured flow from springs in figure 1 
above (PC- Ano Farms)

VGT hedgerows applied at catchment level reduce the impact of catastrophic rainfall events, spreading out and slowing down runoff; the consequential reduction of erosion not only benefits farmers but also reduces sediment flows downstream and the economic costs related to that sediment.  It should be noted that the majority of farmers (98%) depend primarily on rain for crop and animal growth, they will never have access to major irrigation supplies, and those that do, can expect declining levels of availability, so it is essential to harvest rainfall insitu – where it falls – VGT is one of the better technologies to enable this.

Figure 3: Large scale application of VS has rehabilitated the land, resulting 
increased soil fertility, moisture and recharge of the springs in Figure 1.
(PC- Ano Farms)
Water quality is the second big concern.  Polluted water results from: (1) extreme weather events, that through flooding, discharge detriment, sediment, human, animal, and industrial waste to the water supply; (2) effluent generated by industry and mining, and from agriculture, and human domestic waste sources. Pollutants impact both surface and groundwater, and nearly always results in unsafe water supplies for both urban and rural communities. 

VGT is now well proven as a phytoremedial technology.  Work initiated and led by Paul Truong of Australia some 20 years ago, and further developed by him and others, conclusively demonstrate and quantify the effectiveness of VGT to clean up polluted water that in most cases meet EPA standards.  
Figure 4: China - community sewage treatment using vetiver grass
 (PC- Ziyuan Feng)

VGT for phytoremediation can be applied at large scale for major and complex applications for rehabilitation of mining and industrial sites, land fills, public sewage systems; and to micro applications for effluent clean up from community or individual septic, sewage treatment, and other waste water systems. These applications all rely on Vetiver grass’s unique ability to tolerate and remove high levels of toxic substances such as lead, arsenic, copper; and the removal of extreme levels of nitrates, phosphates, and agricultural chemicals. 

Figure 5: China : pond containing VS treated effluent from vetiver wetland
in Figure 4 (PC- Ziyuan Feng)
The technology can be used over a range of applications including in ground hedgerows (protection, rehabilitation and absorption buffers used in mining, landfills, and agriculture); constructed wetlands (domestic sewage processing at scale, agricultural animal waste, small individual septic systems); rain gardens (to clean up incidental urban and semi urban runoff); and as floating vetiver platforms on waste water disposal ponds (for the removal of heavy metals, nitrates, phosphates, and BODs).  There are now some excellent examples of VS being incorporated as part of engineered wastewater treatment systems.  The above images are from a presentation by Ziyuan Feng of Guangzhou Vetiver Grass Industry Science and Technology Company of a complete waste water collection and treatment process for a small village community.
Figure 6: Fiji - Vetiver stream bank protection (PC - John Greenfield)

Small and poor communities can use some of these applications to help mitigate at micro-scale some of their immediate needs – such examples include stream bank Vetiver buffers (reducing sediment and toxic agricultural chemicals, and effluent flowing to drainage line), vetiver protected pit latrines (see this construction guide), Vetiver hedgerow protected springs, community processing plants as in the case of treatment of effluent from wet processed coffee that  had previously been discharged directly into streams polluting community drinking water.  This initiative came through a partnership between Ethiopia, Technoserve, and Mother Parker Coffee.  See "Transforming communities through water"

Figure 7: a new Vetiver latrine in Haiti. Vetiver prevents pit collapse, reduces
effluent flow and provides privacy (PC -  Roger Gietzen)
In urban areas polluted water from open drains and household effluent can often be routed through special vetiver constructed wetlands.  See this case of building urban resilience by Alois Kennerknecht in Lima, Peru – an extraordinary demonstration how one man with commitment and a shovel can help a poor urban community. The presentation includes a nice example (Figure 9) of a vetiver constructed wetland cell used to treat the effluent from a single family household.
Figure 8 : Ethiopia.  Vetiver wetland treating effluent from coffee pulp  
factory prior to discharging  water meeting EPA standards to adjacent 
stream. (PC - Technoserve)

Community water supplies, such as village tanks/ponds that have multipurpose uses (including religious) become overused and polluted.  The water quality on such water bodies can be enhanced by using Vetiver on floating platforms and by protecting the sides of the ponds with Vetiver (filtration and stabilization). 

Paul Truong developed a very useful model for determining vetiver requirements for small scale effluent treatment that can be easily used by individuals and communities

Figure 9: Lima, Peru - constructed vetiver wetland  cell)treating a household
waste water using 20m2 
(PC- Alois Kennerknecht)

Figure 10: Australia – Vetiver pontoons on effluent 
ponds (PC – Paul Truong

Figure 11: Australia.  Vetiver root growth when grown pontoon
on pontoons

Many more examples backed by data and research are at TVNI website.  What is described in this post is how Vetiver, can if used properly, be of great value for community water development. In many cases a few lines of Vetiver will protect an important water supply, or may clean up dirty and smelly waste-water, or stabilize and reduce the effluent from a village garbage dump.  A few Vetiver plants around a simple pit latrine will help reduce disease, and a few plants on a floating raft will make community water supplies more fit to consume.  All of this is in reach of poor communities at minimal cost – as in Peru all that is needed is “knowhow and a shovel”!

The Vetiver System supports Community Resilience at a time of uncertainty - Part I - The Farm

Figure 1:Hassan Ali and family from Ethiopia - a leading user of the
Vetiver System and who  is as a result much more resilient to uncertainty
I propose to write about how the Vetiver System can help build up community resilience in these uncertain times when many communities can expect little support from government or others to deal with increasing problems created by climate change, continuing poverty, and very limited financial resources. The review will be carried out over a number of post. Most rural people in the tropics and semi arid areas are poor, and even when out of poverty most are unable to manage the environmental crises that currently, and in the future, will confront them. Most communities worry about being able to make a decent living from their small farms or businesses, they want to educate their children at higher levels, they worry about the quality and availability of their water supply, they worry about potential disasters that may isolate them from neighboring communities and services, and they see continuing and unabated health challenges often caused by environmental mismanagement. These concerns are magnified because most communities lack access to low cost technologies that might help them overcome some of their problems.

The Vetiver System (VS) is one of a number of technologies that can help them. VS is low cost, relatively simple to understand, safe, and has over the past 30 years been well proven. The Vetiver Grass Technology, (VGT) used for decades by farmers in south India as a tool for soil conservation, was reintroduced and "institutionalized" by John Greenfield of New Zealand whilst he was working for the World Bank in India in the 1980s. At that time the objective was to establish VGT as a more appropriate erosion control technology than the traditional engineered contour bunds. Later VGT formed the basis of a number of other applications that collectively are known as the Vetiver System (VS), these will be reviewed in future blogs. The grass when planted as a hedgerow across the slope significantly reduces soil loss and rainfall runoff. As a result soil fertility is enhanced (increased organic matter, reduced nutrient loss, and nutrient enhancement through increased soil micro-organism activity), crop water availability is improved (enhanced permeability and rate of infiltration), ground water is better recharged is less polluted, and; and farmers can use other crop improvement technologies with less fear of "man" induced drought, flood damage, etc. that can lead to economic disaster. Additionally there are many bi-products that further enhance farm income including vetiver grass use as forage, mulch, thatch, fuel, medicine, crop protection (integrated pest management), and material for handicrafts. All these uses are quantified in the many research and "feed back" papers and documents found at the TVNI website -

 One of the most successful and widespread on farm application of vetiver has been in the Mettu-Gore region of western Ethiopia, where it was introduced in the 1990's by the Austrian NGO, Menschen fur Menschen, with some financial support from TVNI. Today tens of thousands of small farmers are using vetiver in that region. Here are some examples from Ethiopia showing how VGT has been successfully used on farms at any scale.

Figure 2: Google Earth image (1/2014) of Hassan Ali's farm near Gore 
- western Ethiopia. 8°11'11.23"N, 35°21'2.58"E

 Hassan Ali and family A small farmer in Gore District, Hassan Ali, started using vetiver about 20 years ago and soil fertility and "rainfall security" he was able year after year to increase his income to enable him to educate his children through university. He also was a key person in the area to teaching other famers about the benefits of VGT that has resulted in the spread of the technology. "Seeing is Believing"- Figure 2 is  a 2014 Google Earth image of his farm with his vetiver hedgerows marked with a "V" in red, and some photos that I took in 2009 to match some of the locations on the GE image - marked as yellow numbers.

Figure 3: Earlier this land had  a crop of maize, upper row of vetiver cut for forage

Figure 4: Well grown vetiver hedgerow.  Although this hedgerow looks wide in
fact when cut as in figure 5 it takes up very little  of the farmers land.
The biomass from a hedge like this is very high (100 tons /ha equivalent)
when properly managed

Figure 5: This hedge has been cut for forage. It should be noted in this image
how the vetiver grows up the terrace riser as sediment is deposited.

Figure 6: Vetiver hedgerows functioning well and no hinderance to plowing.

Figure 7: Even though not a complete hedge, these clumps and their roots hold
the slope in place, and spreads out rainfall runoff

These images 3-8 show vetiver hedgerows in various state of management and uses - vetiver cut for forage, lower row, mature vetiver to be cut for thatch, mulch and other uses mature vetiver - vetiver formed terrace on steepish 15% slope Vetiver hedgerow cut for forage As it should be -well vetiver protected farm land Even with gaps the hedge works - roots hold soil slope together.

Figure 8:  An excellent example of a cross section of one
of Hassan Ali's hedgerows.  Note the difference
in height between the two boys caused by terrace build up
as a result of the hedgerow

The second example: The Tulube Man (note prepared by Debela Dinka of SLUF). Mr. Gezahegn Gudeta Shana, a 42 years old farmer in Tulube Village of Mettu District, Oromia Regional State. He is married has 5 sons. Gezahegn used to help his father, Gudeta, with the farm when he was young and up to completing his 9th grade education. He began full time farming in 1985 right after his father’s death. According to Gezahegn he was first trained in the use of Vetiver Grass for soil and water conservation (SWC) in 2005 by Mr. Tilahun Semu, field Project Coordinator of Ethio-Wetlands Society. Right after his exposure to the vetiver system, and with the help of Development Agents assigned to his village, he prepared 3,570 meters of Fanya juu conservation terraces on his farmland and planted two pickups truck loads of vetiver tillers. Later he realized that Fanya juu terraces were unnecessary and he planted 800 meters of vetiver tillers on his farmland without making the earth terraces, thus saving labor and time. Upper: Vetiver hedgerow and maize; lower: Well managed farm land (10% slope) protected by vetiver hedgerows Gezahegn observed that as a result of VGT that moisture and soil was well conserved and he got more than 50% yield increment of maize.

Figure 9:  "The Tulube Man" - a farmer who benefits from the Vetiver System

Figure 10: Mr. Gezahegn's farm and hedgerows

Coupled with good cultural practices such as row planting and weeding and proper application of fertilizers (DAP; UREA) Gezahegn maize yields increased to 8.7 to 10 tons/ha of maize which is 4.5 times above average of 2 tons/ha in Mettu District. Apart from SWC he uses vetiver leaves for forage, thatching of cattle sheds and grain stores, and as ornamentals. Gezahegn also started generating income from sales of vetiver clumps for planting material. In the first year He earned Birr 5,000 (USD 400) by splitting 2,500 meters of vetiver hedgerows into 5,000 clumps. He was confident that he had more than enough vetiver planting materials to sell and generate more income in the years to come. Due to the improvements to his farm that he attributed to vetiver hedgerows he is multiplying improved composite maize variety on 3.5 ha of his farm on contract bases for Illuababor Agriculture and Rural Development Office (ARDO). Farmer Gezahegn Gudeta has played a role model in scaling out the practice of using vetiver grass in his village in particular and Mettu District and other parts of Ethiopia in general through training other farmers and sharing his experiences. Gezahegn is currently serving his community in the capacity of Tulube Watershed Management Committee member and Chairperson of Tulube Farmers Cooperative, and Sor-Gaba Farmers Cooperative Union. The union is the apex of 56 cooperatives in 12 Districts of Illuababor Administrative Zone. Nearby farm protected by vetiver, wetland visible upper right The Ethio-Wetland Society took an interest in promoting vetiver because they had observed that farms protected by VGT for SWC purposes had a direct influence, through increased groundwater, of improving and regenerating adjacent wetlands resulting that in turn created the conditions for returning wildlife and better grazing for local cattle owners.
Figure 10:  Typical farm in the Mettu area adjacent to wetlands that have been
restored because of vetiver's groundwater recharge capacity
Figure 10 shows a typical of farms in the Tulube Village area. The improved wetland is just visible at the middle right. You can view this location on Google Earth at: 8°19'27.04"N, 35°32'2.80"E Scroll around in this area and you will see a lot of vetiver hedgerows and not much erosion!

The third example is located 150 miles to the east of Mettu district adjoining the town of Anno (location Google Earth: 9° 6'0.60"N, 36°57'53.62"E). Google Earth image of part of Anno farms. Some of the 250 km of Vetiver hedgerows can be clearly seen.

Figure 11: Anno farms showing vetiver hedgerows and area that hold springs
that now flow annually because of vetiver related groundwater recharge

Anno farms cover 500 ha, part of which is protected by vetiver - some 270 km of hedgerows. This farm used to be a state farm and was completely run down at the time of privatization. It was deforested, badly eroded and infertile. As a result of applying vetiver grass hedgerows, fertility and crop yields improved significantly, and ground water recharge improved to the extent that the local spring became perennial rather than seasonal. Some more on this can be found at: 

Figure 12: Anno farms after harvest 0- vetiver hedgerow protection

Figure 13: Perennial flowing spring water

Image on above shows some of the vetiver hedgerows on this farm. slopes vary from 1- 10%. Since planting very good crops of maize have been grown even during relatively dry years. This image above shows one of the springs that now flow perennially. Farm staff attributed the better flow to the trees that have been planted around the spring heads. However it was quite clear that the large area of crop land - Figure 12 (above and adjacent to the forest area) that had been protected by vetiver had been the main cause of better spring flow. (Figure 13)n Most of the trees immediately above the springs were old indigenous trees that existed even when the spring provided a seasonal flow only - the situation when the farm was released by the state. Farm staff had not made the connection of vetiver hedgerows to ground water recharge. In 2008 a national Vetiver workshop was held in Addis Ababa, the proceedings are at: 

and should be of interest to those of you who see the need to introduce Vetiver Grass Technology more widely, particularly in Africa for on farm purposes.

This paper from China includes some interesting results on the impact of vetiver on various aspects of soil fertility. Worth reading:

These videos related to the above may also be of interest:

The Vetiver System and India - It takes a generation!
A recent quote from a senior official in West Bengal India:

"Soil erosion is one of the largest environmental issues facing the earth today; and the river banks region of India, with heavy rainfall, is particularly affected. Erosion devastates infrastructural activities- landslides, erosion by river and flood water take heavy toll of developed infrastructure. From an engineer’s perspective sustainable asset management has posed as a gargantuan task because of soil erosion. Traditional hard engineering is now found to be inconsistent with the three pillars of sustainability - economy, social and environmental. Hard engineering interventions to prevent erosion have been attempted over decades in the region, incurring large financial and environmental costs, and with limited success. This in combination with limited State budgets makes finding an alternative, low cost, environmentally sustainable solution imperative. One such method that shows considerable promise is Vetiver grass."

30 years ago (a generation ago) John Greenfield and I, when working for the World Bank in India, re-introduced the Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) as an alternative to the engineering approach  - the latter did not work very well - too expensive, heavily subsidized, badly maintained, and mostly ineffective.  We were not very popular for promoting vetiver grass hedgerows as components of World Bank funded projects (Indian Watershed Projects in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh States) as an alternative and better technological and economic solution; questions were tabled in the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, some people even wanted to ban the technology!

Well, as you can see from the above quote, we have come a long way from those days, thanks to a new generation of professionals and the pressure created by climate change and social needs that demand alternative, effective and lower cost solutions.

Since those early days in the 1980s  VGT has been applied in many countries for many different applications that are collectively called the Vetiver System (VS). The expansion of VS has been enabled by countless individuals and institutions that have embraced the technology, seen and understood its effectiveness, simplicity and wide range of application, and who have contributed magnificently to quantifying its effectiveness, developing new techniques, and sharing the results to users world wide.

Paul Truong, TVNI's technical director and major contributor to the development of VS, was recently in India and met with users in both the private and public sector in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. There are some interesting developments including river bank stabilization at large scale in Nadia - - District of West Bengal; an initiative to treat waste water from a private sector dairy processing business; cleaning up and treating village pond water in West Bengal; and the potential for using VS to maintain and stabilize sea walls in the Sundarbans of West Bengal.  Truong's report can be found at this link:

Elsewhere in India VS is being used more widely for mine rehabilitation and infrastructure stabilization (roads, railways, waterways amongst others).

Two new areas for VS application should be of interest.  Prime Minister Modi has vowed to clean up the Ganges River - VS could have a very useful role in reducing untreated industrial and community waste water from entering the river. The other is linked to health. India has to find ways to manage the impact of indiscriminate deposition of human excrement.  Existing solutions are generally expensive and many have not been effective.  The use of vetiver to treat effluent from toilets and septic systems has proven to be effective at large and small scale - as too have simple vetiver latrines that were introduced to Haiti.  I am sure that some modification will be needed, but a vetiver solution is possible, and well within the means of execution by the local communities themselves., underscoring the fact that VS is a very useful technology to help build community resilience for mitigating climate change and social/economic problems that relate to soil and water.

It is also good to know that the Indian Vetiver Network is to be institutionalized and located at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore where there is a renewed commitment to bring VGT to India's farmers for soil and water conservation applications. (an idea that was initiated a generation ago!).

I have great confidence that India will continue to accelerate its application of VS, not only because Indians are interested in the technology and in a plant that has its origin in India and one that is deeply embedded in her culture, but also because to survive the environmental changes brought on by climate change, India has little option but to use and embrace this unique plant.
Dick Grimshaw

News from China
The second year of a new project: ”Vetiver and agroforestry for poverty reduction and natural resource protection in the Dabie mountains of China”, supported by Germany, continues to promote VS technology in this very poor part of China.

Mr. Yong Lu, associate professorfrom School of Economics and Management, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, has redesigned our website  When opened by Google Chrome browser it can be nicely translated to English

A new book “Vetiver System Research, Application and Extension”, edited by Xia Hanping and Liyu Xu will introduce new VS development since 2008 in China and in the world. This will follow a book titled “Vetiver System: Theory and Practice” published in 2008.

We will establish a new network: Southwest China Vetiver Network based on  Kunming to promote VS development in a region covered by many mountains.
Vetiver Coordinator, Liyu Xu.

Vetiver as a livestock forage
Liyu Xu, Vetiver Coordinator for China, has been promoting the Vetiver System for 20 years, and continues to provide us with feedback on the use of vetiver in south China.  Most of the areas that he personally is involved with are relatively high rainfall and hilly areas where soil is poor and where people are poor.  In Yunnan province a group of farmers have formed a cooperative to support the production of cattle and goats using vetiver as the main source of feed. Liyu's note is at: and is well worth reading.  The bottom line is that when grown as a forage, and managed and fed on a rotational cutting system at a time when the vetiver leaf is young it is possible to get good growth and substantial increase in incomes.  It is interesting that these farmers also sell some of their vetiver as plant material to local construction companies for slope stabilization and other purposes. In addition on farm erosion and rainfall runoff is reduced. Seems to be a WIN WIN situation!!

I have been writing about the potential of these  multipurpose applications of vetiver for a number of years now.  This one from Yunnan is a good example.  Vetiver is grown and managed (not just as a hedge) as a forage crop supporting in this case 3 head of cattle/ha; it is cut as forage every two or three weeks (at larger scale it could be strip grazed); some of it is being harvested and sold as planting material; it is drought tolerant, it grows with minimum inputs, and is protecting and enhancing the soil. The cow manure will either be used for biogas production or returned to the land.  The cooperativer structure is interesting, quote "The cooperative operates as a combination of company, cooperative, and farmers. The Yunnan Vetiver Sci-Tech Co. Ltd, a branch company of Kunming Guangbao Biotechnology Engineering Co. Ltd is a shareholder in the form of technical service, seedling supply, and Vetiver plant material repurchase; the cooperative distributes seedlings to farmers in terms of individual need; and the farmers individually cultivate the Vetiver.  Worth trying in other countries????
Dick Grimshaw

he Vetiver System for Quality – Prevention and Treatment of Contaminated Water and Land
Coincident to the Climate Change meeting in Paris, TVNI has published the Second Edition of “The Vetiver System for Quality – Prevention and Treatment of Contaminated Water and Land” authored by Paul Truong of Australia and Luu Thai Danh of Vietnam.  The publication updates research and fields experience carried out by various scientists and users around the world showing the importance and success of the Vetiver System for dealing with polluted water and land.  The results and methods applied demonstrates the uniqueness of Vetiver grass as a plant that has special characteristics in its stand alone mode, as well as its interesting symbiotic relationship with other organisms associated with its rhizosphere that enable Vetiver to remove toxic chemicals from both soil and water.  A plant that is so well behaved, that can clean up polluted water and land contaminated by heavy metals and other toxic chemicals, and that can function efficiently over a huge range of soil, water, and climatic conditions, is truly incredible.  This publication is a testament to many contributors to the development of the Vetiver System, especially to Paul Truong who has dedicated a good part of his life to the development of  “Vetiver Phytoremediation Technology”.  Hard copy of this book (containing nearly one hundred photos, figures, and tables) is available in early December from, and can be viewed on TVNI’s website:
Dick Grimshaw

Climate Change – The need to do better with soil and water conservation
Climate change is already creating more intense storms – floods; and less rain and higher temperatures – drought. It will get WORSE. We need to become very much more active in finding solutions that can easily and inexpensively be applied. We have written many times about the Vetiver System for soil and water conservation, and now is the time to step up its application particularly in the warmer areas of the world. The verified facts are that the Vetiver System’s use of the  unique plant, Vetiver grass, results in: (1) significant reduction in soil loss, (2) significant reduction in rain fall runoff, (3) reduced soil fertility loss, (4) improved groundwater recharge, and (5) improved crop yields and incomes. 

The latest research comes from a Nigerian paper
, “Using Vetiver Technology To Control Erosion And Improve Productivity In Slope Farming” by Efiom Essien Oku, Emilolorun Ambrose Aiyelari, Kwabena Owusu Asubonteng; published by United Nations University Institute For Natural Resources In Africa (Unu-Inra).  These trials were undertaken on 45% slopes in southeastern Nigeria where the rainfall exceeds 1,000 mm per year and the soils have high acidity and have been disturbed by cultivation with high soil, water, carbon, and plant nutrient losses, leading to significant reduction in crop yields.

“This study assessed the effectiveness of vetiver buffer strips in mitigating degradation on a landscape of 45% slope. Vetiver Buffer Strip (VBS) planted at intervals of 5m, 15m and 25m surface spacing were compared to each other and also to usual farmers’ practice (FP) as the control. Twelve erosion plots, each measuring about 50m long and 3m wide were used. The plots were planted with traditional mixture of maize (10,000 plants ha-1) and cassava (30,000 plants ha-1). Pre and post-experiment soil properties including bulk density, organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous, exchangeable bases were determined in the laboratory. Runoff, soil loss, crop yields and rainfall were also measured. Of the total soil loss in 2010, 70% was from FP, and VBS at 5m, 15m and 25m respectively was 4%, 14%, and 12%; and 2011 78%, 3%, 10% and 9%.  In 2010 rainfall lostas runoff was 29%, 7%, 12% and 13% under FP and VBS at 5m, 15m and 25m respectively; and the corresponding loss in 2011 was 21%, 8%, 10% and 11%. Crop yields were significantly higher under VBS plots. Yield declined in the second year under FP whereas it increased under VBS plots. When compared with FP plots, maize yields increased by 55%, 27% and 32% in 2010 under VBS with 5m, 15m and 25m spacing, and in 2011, it increased by 89%, 69% and 68%, with the same interval spacing respectively. Cassava yields increase under VBS at 5m, 15m and 25m by 76%, 47% and 41% respectively in 2010. The corresponding values for 2011 were 289%, 206% and 188%. Carbon loss in eroded sediment were 91%, 41% and 21% lower under VBS at 5m, 15m and 25m spacing respectively, than under FP in 2010; and in 2011, where it was 300%, 177% and 84%. Nitrogen loss was also lower under VBS at 5m, 15m and 25m by 80%, 28% and 29% in 2010 respectively, and in 2011, the values were 175%, 120% and 57%.Vetiver buffer at 5m interval significantly reduced runoff, soil losses and increased yields of the crops under study. In addition, vetiver showed dual potentials in climate change adaptation and GHGs emission mitigation, sequestering carbon and nitrogen and enhancing water use efficiency when compared with FP”.

“Planting of vetiver grass on the contour 5m apart can effectively decrease soil and nutrient losses and sustainably increase agricultural productivity. Additionally, it holds the capacity to sequester carbon and nitrogen that would have escaped into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (C02) and nitrous oxide (N20) contribute to GHGs emissions.” The full paper is at:

This research used Chrysopogon nigritana – a species of Vetiver that is native to many countries in Africa, and although the plant is fertile it is not considered aggressive or invasive when grown under upland conditions.

These results are in line with other Vetiver experimental results undertaken in the wet tropics. It is particularly important for countries with small and poor farmers to find suitable technologies that remedy the issues that they face.  The Vetiver System is one of them.
Dick Grimshaw

Is vetiver grass planted in China an invasive alien species and becoming a weed?
We are often asked questions relating to whether vetiver is an invasive plant.  A recent study in China shows conclusively that it is not. Here is the abstract in English:

Abstract: The Vetiver Grass Technique (VGT) was introduced into China in 1988 via Mr. Richard Grimshaw, the Chairman of International Vetiver Network. It is an excellent eco-engineering and phytoremediation technology that has been utilized in multiple applications: soil and water conservation, environmental protection, habitat restoration, disaster and pollution control and so on. In the last two decades, VGT has been applied to over a dozen of provinces in southern China, and has made significantly ecological and social benefits. As a matter of fact, before it was introduced into China, “wild” vetiver had already existed in Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian for long, which can be traced back to 1936. However, there has not been conclusive evidence or information so far whether the vetiver was native to China or imported from abroad. At present, the only reproduction method of the cultivated vetiver around the globe is through asexual means (e.g., tillering), and vetiver sprawl and "repellent" phenomena haven’t been found in China. In contrast, vetiver can improve harsh habitat conditions and therefore benefits the growth of other native species, which leads to the shrinking or even disappearance of vetiver due to its poor tolerance to shade. In addition, vetiver is particularly sensitive to herbicides, and therefore, often can be completely annihilated by the spraying of herbicide. In conclusion, we think there is no scientific basis to conclude that vetiver is an alien invasive species and has potential to become a weed.

XIA Hanping1**, WANG Mingzhu2, XU Liyu2
(1-South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650, China; 2- Nanjing Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China)

Matthew Huffine's Vetiver in Winter
Mohave Desert, California
Paul Truong, TVNI's Technical Director has updated information relating to the tolerance of vetiver to cold. His slide presentation - COLD TOLERANCE OF VETIVER - should be of interest to users who live in areas of hot summers and cold winters - especially in desert areas where winter night time temperatures are very low, but have high winter day time temperatures that reduce the possibility of freezing and killing the vetiver crown- we have to thank Matthew Huffine who lives in the high desert (Mohave) of California for this information. The presentation shows that Vetiver can survive very cold winter, but dies when the crown is frozen in the ground. In very cold, frosted or under snow cover the outside plants of the thick sward protect the interior part, which remains green and actively treating effluent. Under extremely cold and dry conditions, its shoots turn brown but new growth resumes from underground buds.
Dick Grimshaw

WHY, WHY, WHY, don't those responsible for public works protection and maintenance use the VETIVER SYTEM ?

Since 2000 the Vietnamese provincial governments have been testing and using the Vetiver System, at large scale, for highway (Ho Chi Minh Highway) - - and for Sea Dyke Protection in the Mekong Delta - These are a very important applications and show the impact of vetiver over 8-15 years of use. When the Vietnamese under take trials, they don't mess around with a few meters, instead they think kilometers! I can see VS application for highway and sea dike protection in many countries, but specifically in south and East Asia (China, Philippines, Indonesia. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India). VS protection is long lasting and a very low cost (as much as 90% over conventional practices). The Vietnamese experience is FACT not FICTION and is applicable most places in the tropics. Why is it not being used widely? Many answers - the most important being: lack of knowledge, "too good, too cheap" syndrome (in other words PROFITS), and entrenched traditional habits or ignorance by those responsible - and in the latter I include many of the international and bilateral agencies! Please CORRECT me if I am wrong. Thank you Vietnam for showing the way.
Dick Grimshaw

VETIVER SYSTEM AND DROUGHT - How Vetiver saved a farmers herd of cattle in Venezuela
Climate change is resulting in severe droughts in some parts of the world.  The Vetiver System if applied and managed as a forage crop could provide communities and farmers greater resilience and protection.  Analysis of vetiver leaf shows that at a young stage its nutritional value is as good as the popular tropical grasses such as Rhodes, Napier, Star, Kikuyu and others. The key question is how to manage vetiver in order to  produce a quality forage.  Small farmers in Gundalpet, south India, know - they cut their vetiver hedges every three weeks - great forage! We need to apply an appropriate management approach, probably following controlled strip grazing or rotational grazing practices, for those farmers who could use vetiver as a forage crop at large scale. Here follows an interesting and related story from Raphael Luque of Venezuela titled "Vetiver Saved My Herd"

"For more than 15 years I have been usingVetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) for bioengineering applications as part of my environmental related business, 'Vetiver AntiErosion'. I am also a farmer. Initially I owned a 1 ha fish pond. Later I moved to better land located in Las Majaguas, Edo, Portuguesa, Venezuela where I planted 6 ha of vetiver. After a few years, I had added 18 ha of sugar cane, but for political-economical reasons, that are beside the point, I switched to dairy ranching, designating 4 ha for other crops, and because the sugar cane had higher calorific value but less proteins, I reserved 18.5 ha for pastures and foraging crops.

In working with the Pastoreo Racional Voisin (PRV) this past year, we sowed, during the rainy season, 8 ha of African Star Grass (Photo 1) and divided the area with electric fences into many small pastures. Likewise we sowed a number of forage trees and fruits. At the beginning all went according to the plan (Photo 2), but unexpected sickness afflicted me and José Gregorio, my son who partners me in this project, and we were absent from the farm for 4 months. Due to the distance between the farm and my home, nobody from the family could supervise what was happening there.

What came next is easy to understand for any Venezuelan rancher, and Latin Americans in general, thus I will only go into details about what happened with the facilities, the pasture, and the animals. We returned to the farm during the time of drought. After having gone around the farm, we found that all wire fencing had been unraveled and in the soil (Photos 3 and 4). The animals had entered all of the pastures as they please and had eaten the grass before it had developed. Hardly any survived except 1 ha that was eaten to the ground. In brief, there was no foliage to eat (Photos 5, 6, and 7). With virtually nothing to eat the cattle were thin (Photo 8), moreover, only 2 cows were producing milk, (about 8 liters/day).

My first reaction was to sell the herd, so I put announcements in the press. However, potential buyers lost interest once they knew that the majority of the cows were dry (not producing milk). Others offered to buy them at very low prices in order to take them to the slaughter house.

I then decided on a plan B: Buy concentrated food to supplement those cows that had just given birth and the thinnest, and also buy bales of Brachiaria humidicola (a grass commonly used as hay in East Venezuela) at the cost of 850 Bs (134 USD) for each bale, that hardly lasts 1 day per 33 animals. For reference, the price of 1 liter of milk was 25 Bs. Thus, it is necessary to produce 34 liters and my cows were only giving 8 liters per day. Soon I realized that financially I could not support this. By good luck, on the border of the farm grew rice, so I began to cultivate it and supply it to the animals even though the nutritional value of these young shoots of rice is very low. 

I observed that the cows were going to the 6 ha vetiver area frequently, but they spent little time in the other crops. I observed that the animals ate very little of the mature vetiver leaves (Photos 12 and 13). I had little hope for the vetiver, due to the presence of silica in the leaves and low palatability when mature. At this time, halfway through summer, it was almost dry. I had heard that in the Apure state, and also I had read that in Africa, the cattle eat vetiver during the summer. I visited the TVNI website (, the library of vetiver, where I found an Australian study where they compared the nutritional value of vetiver with the grasses Rhodes and Kikuyu, obtaining results at par with the other grasses (see Appendix A).

To continue, I proceeded to plan C, one that was never in my mind. I burned 3 ha of vetiver and cut the stems that remained after the fire with the objective to stimulate faster sprouting of the grass (Photo 14). After five days, the cattle began to enter the area, meanwhile, the new foreman suggested that I wait longer for it. From prior experience, I knew that the vetiver, under these conditions, has a growth rate of 3 to 5 cm/day and for that I told him: “Don't worry, the vetiver will grow more quickly than the hunger of the cows.” Initially, they spent little time in the fire zone (Photo 15), but as the vetiver grew, they began to spend half the day there (Photos 16, 17, and 18), and the other half of the day they were grazing in an area of trees and pastures with weeds and dry grass.

Now the rainy season has arrived, and with it we will be able to sow more appropriate grasses for the cattle. But I can say with confidence that:


For Raphael's full article with photos go to this link

Some of the 100 volunteers
A major TVNI objective is to give, through VS, the ability for communities to build resilience to climate change and associated problems created by unregulated third party activities - as in this case the disposal of toxic organic chemicals that pollute community drinking water sources.  There is always a high tech solution available, but most of the time the latter are too costly and out of reach of the majority of communities.  In an earlier blog I wrote about VS latrines that are providing relief to rural folks in Haiti and the positive social health related benefits. This blog focuses on the potential application of VS to clean up illegally dumped phenols that have polluted community groundwater sources in Thailand and are of great health concern.  
A paper presented by lead researcher, T. Phenrat of Naresuan University (email: "Laboratory-scaled Developments and Field-scaled Implementations of Using Vetiver Grass to Remediate Water and Soil Contaminated with Phenol and Other Hazardous Substances from Illegal Dumping at Nong-Nea Subdistrict, Phanom Sarakham District, Chachoengsao Province, Thailand" is well worth a careful review as the results, thus far, appear to have wide application in tropical and semi tropical countries.  There are a number of interesting facets to this research. 

First, Phenrat has shown precisely how vetiver grass has been able to reduce the level of phenol to acceptable levels (contamination was at a 250 times acceptable levels). Quote "Laboratory-scale experimental results suggested that phenol degradation by vetiver involves two phases: Phase I, phytopolymerization and phytooxidation assisted by root produced H2O2 and peroxidase (POD), followed by Phase II, a combination of Phase I with enhanced rhizomicrobial degradation. The first 360–400 hours of phenol degradation was dominated by phytopolymerization and phytooxidation. Phenol was rapidly detoxified via transformation to phenol radicals, followed by polymerization to non-toxic polyphenols or regioselective polymerization with natural organic matters prior to being precipitated as particulate polyphenols (PPP) or particulate organic matters (POM). After this first phase, phenol decreased from 500 mg/L to around 145 mg/L, while PPP and POM increased, as indicated by the increase of particulate chemical oxygen demand (COD). Synergistically, rhizomicrobial growth was ~100 fold greater on the roots of the vetiver grass than in the wastewater and participated in the microbial degradation of phenol at this lower phenol concentration, increasing the phenol degradation rate by more than 4 fold. This combination of POD-assisted phytopolymerization, phytooxidation, and rhizomicrobial degradation completely eliminated phenol in the wastewater in less than 700 hours".

Secondly, the research team with help from public volunteers and communities: (a) directly treated, with vetiver pontoons, phenol contaminated ponds (the first round of treated water was carried out over 2 months and with reduced and acceptable contaminant levels the water is to be used for crop irrigation), and (b) planted vetiver hedges (3 rows deep) on both sides (over 1 km) of a phenol polluted stream to clean up horizontal phenol flows from the stream. 

Thirdly,  the team and community planted (May 2015)  vetiver hedgerows along the boundary fence of a waste disposal area, adjoining community lands, that the owners refuse entry for onsite remediation and which is polluting adjacent community related groundwater.

Lastly, this VS technical response has allowed for a tri-party collaboration - government agencies, the public, and the affected communities  - that provides an excellent example of how such a low cost approach can be applied.

Interestingly Ngo Thi Thuy Huong of Vietnam (email: has initiated research on using VS for dioxin (a component of Agent Orange) clean up at a highly toxic site on Bien Hoh airbase. This research, which is progressing well, should also be closely followed, and is expected to have results in 2016. If the results are positive then vetiver will provide a very affordable remedial technology.

Dick Grimshaw

Side slope of road cutting (height: 15-20 m)
2 years after vetiver grass planting
The Vetiver System has been successfully applied to a number of important railroads in China since 2000. A paper presented at ICV6: "Application of Vetiver Grass for Protection of Railway Side Slopes"  by Xinmin Jiang, Tian Guan, Deyou Hu and Lehong Tang (email: provides good evidence of the success and longevity of the applications over time by the Shanghai Railway Bureau.
The vetiver slope remains completely protected
 after a rainstorm of 114mm. Lower half of picture
used conventional system and native grasses.
VS was able to stabilize batters up to 20 meters high and protect them against extreme typhoon rainfall events.

Although the China Railway Corporation recognizes vetiver in its guidelines it has laid down provisions that VS, like other plants used, must be applied as part of masonary and geofabrics design. This defeats the $10-$15 savings per square meter that VS has over conventional "hard" technologies.  Is this another "too good, too cheap" intervention to favor hard technology?   Chinese highway construction companies have successfully used VS in China and Africa (see Alain Ndona's Congo paper).
Conventional herringbone construction
with failed vegetation - fairly
typical of native grasses.
China is embarking on some major highway and railway construction projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Most of the alignments are located where vetiver grass will grow very well, and where there are professional engineers such as Alain Ndona who have the experience and capability to see the technology is properly applied.  We would urge that decision makers/potential contractors/communities that are associated with these Chinese funded projects press for the inclusion of VS - "a green and proven solution" that will assure that the investment will stay in good order at minimum maintenance for a long time!  See Van Tran's paper: "Vetiver System for Infrastructure Protection in Vietnam: A Review after Fifteen Years of Application on the Ho Chi Minh Highway (2000- 2014)"
Dick Grimshaw

Vetiver protects latrines and provides privacy hedge in Haiti
Millions of dollars are being spent on improving public sanitation.  Most is expensive and will only reach just a few communities - those living in rural areas get little or no help. Even in most cities in the developing world many of the poor are without any sanitation. Very low cost solutions are needed.
Remember this paper from Owen Lee. Here is an update from Owen on the progress of his project:

"Those of those who are not familiar with the vetiver latrine. About one third of the global population does not have adequate access to a simple toilet. Logically it is the poorest of the poor that does not have this basic necessity and because they cannot afford them. The idea is to reduce the cost of a latrine by using vetiver as a construction material instead of bricks and cement. The design is a simple slab with vetiver planted around. The roots of the vetiver will stabilized the pit and the blades will act as a privacy screen. Using this technology we have been able to reduce the cost of a latrine from about $500 to about $25. Considering that most Haitians make less than $1.25 a day that makes sanitation affordable. If you are interested please check out this site

Now the update: We finished another 247 latrines in April 2013 giving a total of 362 vetiver latrines. I did a survey of about 30% of the household of the batch that was completed in Sept 2012.  After 2.5 years of use: (a) The latrines are self cleaning, 100% of the latrines were clean; (b) 0% of the latrines were mis-used (this is a common problem when NGO build latrines that are better than the homes they become storage depots and not latrines) (c) 100% of the households were satisfied with the latrine (d) none of the latrine pits collapsed; (e) people were very happy with the privacy screen; (f) of those who originally built a non-vetiver privacy screen 80% did not have one 2.5 years later. They said it was too much work maintaining a privacy screen and that the vetiver did a fine enough job; (g) when I visited the village in Nov 2014 all the latrines had only vetiver as a privacy screen.

There were no morbidity records before the project so it is difficult to quantify the public health benefit of the project. What we can say is that when there was a cholera outbreak in the area, the village was not effected (Sanitation usually affects the spread of cholera not the initial infection). Anecdotally number of child deaths due to diarrhea has been reduced (we used to have one death every 2-3 months and for now people can’t remember a child death from diarrhea for 15 months and counting). We are looking into making the latrine more potable so that it can be produced in a centralized location and transported to remote sites".

Congratulations Owen, and to the smart villagers of Haiti. More proof that you don't need big bucks to improve quality of life! Owen is looking for additional funding to extend the program.


Vetiver hedges in cooler climates can be challenged by fast growing local species of grass and broad leaved climbers, to the extent that the hedge succumbs to the invading weed’s shade and pressure.  As Vetiver - Chrysopogon spp is sensitive to weedicides especially Glyphosate, getting rid of grass weeds in the hedge, especially Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) can be very labour intensive.  However, if Kikuyu grass is not controlled, it can rapidly smother the vetiver and destroy the hedge. Kikuyu rhizomes don’t invade the root area of vetiver grass, but the their stolons can completely infest a vetiver hedge and ultimately all its aerial parts. Broad leaved weeds in the hedge, can be easily controlled with 2,4-D which vetiver is resistant to.

Fortunately vetiver seems to thrive on being burned and as part of its growth pattern, it has a dense production of trash from the previous year’s dead stems and leaves, This provides a great source of fuel and the build up of trash over the years can also effect the growth of the hedge by shading out young regrowth.

Vetiver’s positive response to being burned makes me wonder that over the centuries of being burned, it is now a ‘fire-climax’ plant.  In the photo left, you can see a vetiver hedge burning in the tropics

The resulting regrowth from that fire shows the young growth either side of the ash-line left from the trash fire that was so densely shading the plants in the hedge.  Obviously Vetiver, being a C4 plant needs as much sunlight as it can get for its regrowth, hence the regrowth on the outside edge of the old hedge.  (right picture)

The picture on the below shows an established vetiver hedge in Ethiopia cut right down to the ground, to supply leaves for many purposes – forage: thatch;  mattress stuffing; mulch; ceremonial purposes etc, but the regrowth from the complete plant base is obvious with no blank central line as with the burned hedge line. Was this ash-line a function of the heat of the fire? However, both the cut line and the burned line regrew within a month as complete hedges.
Burning vetiver hedges as a management tool is to be recommended in areas where you do not want to retain the leaves for any purpose.  Burning gets rid of any unnecessary weed infestation; pests and diseases that may decide to try vetiver as a new host plant, and burning is certainly less labour intensive. There is a point though, you would have to be careful that you controlled the fire, as it is very hot and spreads down the hedge quite rapidly.
John Greenfield  June 1. 2015 

Paul Truong - Global Vetiver Champion - 2015
Paul Truong of Australia receives (left) Global Vetiver Champion Award from TVNI's Patron, Her Royal Highness Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for, for 25 years service to the Development of the Vetiver Grass Technology with special reference to his work on the development of Vetiver Grass Technology for the decontamination of land and water; and for his mentoring and support to many young post graduate students working on vetiver as part of their thesis.
Other awards and certificates were presented to the recipients by Her Royal Highness at ICV6 at Da Nang, Vietnam. 

The following received awards for their contribution to the Vetiver System:

KING OF THAILAND VETIVER AWARDS - The winners of the six awards were: Mohammad Shariful Islam (Bangladesh); Liyu Xu and Biao Huang(China): Alain Ndona (Congo DR); and Malee Nanakorn, Tanapon Phenrat, and Songkiert Tansamrit (Thailand). Each received US$2500. Also nine Certificates of Excellence have been awarded. Details of the awards can be found at this link


Alain Ndona of the Democratic Republic of the Congo awarded Vetiver Champion Award for the introduction and dissemination of the Vetiver Grass Technology in Congo Kinshasha and Congo Brazzaville with specific reference to slope stabilization. Alois Kennerknecht of Peru awarded the Nick Dolphin Award (US$ 750) for the communal application of the Vetiver Sytem in urban areas of Lima, Peru. Luu Thai Danh of Vietnam awarded the Mark Dafforn Award (US$ 1,500) for his comprehensive review and compilation of Vetiver Grass Technology application for phytoremediation. Kittima Sivaarthitkul of Thailand and her colleagues of the Land Development Department awarded the Monty Yudelman Award (US$ 2,500) for developing Vetiver Grass Tracking System for Thailand. Other TVNI awards can be found at this page.

Why is Sunshine Vetiver Sterile?
I am often asked why Sunshine Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides - south Indian variety) and other similar vetiver cultivars are sterile?  Needless to say it's all about genetics and the number of chromosomes. I hope the following will help in understanding the why and how!:

Sunshine vetiver (named after its US location - Sunshine, Louisiana) is a triploid (3n). Most plants and animals are diploids (2n) (2 sets of chromosomes). A triploid has an extra set, and because of this is sterile. For example triploid water melons (seedless) and  triploid carp are both sterile and cannot reproduce themselves.  Sunshine Vetiver is the same. Us humans are diploid and can only too well reproduce ourselves!

These quotes may help you understand this:

"Triploids. Sometimes "errors" occur during cell division. If the chromosomes fail to segregate properly to the daughter cells, the result can be a diploid gamete (with two sets of chromosomes rather than the usual one). If this gamete unites with a normal, haploid gamete, then the resulting zygote will be triploid—that is, it will have three sets of chromosomes. Though this condition can sometimes result in plants with larger flowers or other desirable characteristics, triploid plants are usually sterile. Because the chromosomes occur in threes, rather than in pairs, the chromosomes cannot segregate evenly to the daughter cells. This often results in infertile pollen and reduced sterility in the female plant.
Despite their sterility, triploids are still horticulturally important. Not only are triploid flowers often larger and more colorful than their diploid counterparts, since they don’t produce mature seeds the flowers often last longer as well, and require little or no "dead-heading." One interesting triploid is the familiar banana. Diploid bananas do exist, but they have hard seeds. However in triploid bananas, the seeds abort, leaving only the tiny remnants you see. So don’t bother looking for banana seeds—at least not if you want to eat the fruit! The plant must be multiplied from cuttings".  

Another example: "seedless water melon cultivars are produced by crossing a tetraploid (4X=44) inbred line as the female parent with a diploid (2X=22) inbred line as the male parent of the hybrid. The reciprocal cross (diploid female parent) does not produce seeds. The hybrid is a triploid (3X=33), and is female and male sterile. Triploid plants have three sets of chromosomes, and three sets cannot be divided evenly when they go into two daughter cells during meiosis (the cell division process that produces the gametes). Since the triploid hybrid is female sterile, the fruit are seedless. Because the triploid is also male sterile, it is necessary to plant a diploid cultivar in the production field to provide the pollen that stimulates fruit to form. Usually, one third of the plants in the field are diploid and two thirds are triploid. Cultivars should be chosen that can be distinguished easily so the seeded diploid fruit can be separated from the seedless triploid fruit for marketing.”

Here are some links to papers that may help you with regard to vetiver and its sterility and potential breeding:

Hopkinson (Australia) tested 40,000 Monto vetiver seeds and showed that all but three were sterile.  On the basis of this research the Australians allowed Monto to be distributed to the public

USDA/NRCS - Robert Joy (Hawaii) confirmed that Sunshine (triploid) is sterile and allowed its general release for use in Hawaii.

PACIFIC ISLAND ECOSYSTEM AT RISK  (PIER) rating showed Vetiver (Sunshine equivalent) at minus 9 level of invasiveness - where as the north Indian fertile diploid vetiver is a plus 9 on the invasive list.  Hawaii and Australia allow plants with a plus1 or less to be imported.  Sunshine vetiver at -9 is very safe.

USA (Robert Adams) DNA tested vetiver from around the world.  The sterile cultivars were shown by DNA comparison to be virtually genetically the same. Confirming that Monto Vetiver (Australia) = Sunshine Vetiver (USA)

Lavania (India): Umesh Lavania is one of the worlds leading breeders of vetiver.  His papers give you a closer look at the science and differentiation between, diploid, triploid, polyploid vetivers and how he is using this to breed potentially new vetivers that may work better for different applications and yet at the same time remain a sterile plant.

The 6th International Vetiver Conference – May 5-8 2015

The 6th International Vetiver Conference – May 5-8 2015.  This conference, “Vetiver System: Empowering Sustainable Development”, is only 3 months away and will be held in Danang, Vietnam.. 
We encourage you and your colleagues to attend this conference to see and hear how the Vetiver System can significantly and positively impact on crucial environmental related development issues that are currently facing those tropical and semi tropical countries having a high dependency, and for their protection and preservation. Problems range from reducing soil and water loss on farm land, improving groundwater, mitigating disasters caused by extreme weather conditions, stabilizing soil based infrastructure, decontaminating polluted soil and water, and other related topics.  Many users of the technology will be attending, and participants will learn how the Vetiver System technology can be applied successfully under different climatic and topographical conditions.  We would encourage those of you who have social media sites to post this message, and in particular copy it to key professionals in your community (government and non-government) at local and state level who you think might benefit by participating in the conference. For details of the conference and registration see: 

Note there is a 20% discount for registration before January 31 2015.”

Some Interesting Reading for the New Year (2015)
Central Arizona -
Where has all the soil
Greetings!  May all our readers have a useful year in 2015.  I hope that many of you will be able to join us for the 6th International Vetiver Conference to be held in Da Nang, Vietnam from May 5-8th. Details at:  I am now back in a very foggy and cool Pacific North West, having had a few weeks of sun in southern California and Arizona. The impact of drought in these two states is pretty dramatic and makes one realize that a lot more should be done to improve our soil and water conservation measures - whatever the methods might be, and wherever located.

I have been collecting a few links to some Vetiver items/news that some of you  might be interested in.  Here they are:

Vetiver grass: A solution for Land Rehabilitation:

Philippines: Propagating ‘Vetiver grass’ For Disaster Preparedness:

Vetiver System: A Green Investment For Sustainable Development

Vetiver Grass : A Sustainable Option for Slope Protection and Many Others

Vetiver System benefits to to the farmer: low input, low cost, permanent, and sustainable: (John Greenfield on video)
An Urban Waste Water Solution: African Vetiver Grass:

Control de erosion y saneamiento de efluentes. Conferencia sobre Vetiver - Dr Paul Truong:

I draw particular attention to Dr. Effiom Oku 0f Nigeria who is a Senior Research Fellow for Land and Water Resources at UNU-INRA work on testing the potential of Chrysopogon nigritana  (see Urban waste water treatment above) for waste water treatment.  We will be writing more about this later.

Dick Grimshaw

TVNI has agreed that José Luis Cortés Cortés be the Network Coordinator for the Vetiver Network Spain. José is an architect and engineer. He got involved with the Vetiver System because he had to solve a serious slope stabilization problem. From then on, five years ago, he started an in depth study of vetiver. Through his journey he discovered TVNI.
The mission of the the Vetiver Network Spain is to introduce VS to Universities, Governments and private industries in Spain. The Network would: (a) pay special attention to assuring that those who use VS use it properly; (b) create a national network comprising suppliers and technicians who are committed to VS. Web site:

Indonesian environmental volunteers embrace the Vetiver System
President Jokowi's Head Advisor,
 Ret.Gen. Hendropriyono and Irma Hutabarat
Vetiver System has been used in Indonesia for at least 20 years, and in particular the East Bali Poverty Project used VS for a number of effective applications.  Other groups and companies have used VS applications ranging from soil conservation to waste water treatment.  Now there are some new players who could have a significant impact on the widespread promotion of VS.  President Jokowi is a keen environmentalist and intends to do something about the deteriorating environment.
His friend, Irma Hutabarat, is also a environmentalist as well as being a well known figure on Indonesian TV.  Earlier this year she attended the Philippines workshop on VS that was organized by another committed environmentalist  and woman - Noah Manarang - owner of Vetiver Farms .  Irma was very impressed, she realized the potential application of VS for solving a number of land and water related environment problems in
President Jokowi and Irma Hutbarat
Indonesia, and on return (March 2014) discussed the potential with President Jokowi, who at that time was Governor of Jakarta.  Since then Irma has created a network of thousands of volunteers known as "LV" or Laskar Vetiver, meaning Vetiver Warrior, from communities, universities, private sectors, professional organizations , government officers and political leaders.
Irma Hutabarat, known in the vetiver
 community of Indonesia as "Inang Vetiver" -
 Mother Vetiver

Already some volunteers have created social media groups and have started planting - Irma sends them the vetiver slips and the brochures - they are said to have enormous amounts of enthusiasm and spirit.  Irma is supported by local experts as well as by the international Vetiver community.  This program of dissemination of Vetiver information is called Revolusi Hijau  (Green Revolution with Vetiver).  Its a great start to what we all hope will be very large program relating to land wand water rejuvenation and protection.  Please support these efforts.

Dick Grimshaw

Soil Moisture Conservation and the Vetiver System

Although there are many other applications, Vetiver's most important use is for soil and water conservation, and the need to use Vetiver for this purpose is growing every day as the negative impacts of climate change accelerate.  This is especially the case in the poorer areas of the tropics and semitropics, including semi arid areas. Sadly the technology is not being used as much as it should for this purpose.

India is one such example - as the center of origin of Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) and with a traditional on farm use going back hundreds of years, it still is relatively unknown.

We would urge individuals, communities, and other development agencies to use vetiver hedges for soil and moisture conservation in their programs. We are familiar with the “microwatershed development” approaches being utilized in India and other countries that have (in our opinion) a number of problems that detract from long term success … problems that vetiver hedges are very well-suited to help resolve.  

Briefly, microcatchment approaches (that exclude vetiver) being used:
1. Concentrates work along the natural drainage ways to capture all of the rainfall runoff possible for productive use.  This focus: (i) means that farmers whose land is some distance from drainage lines receive no direct benefits (in fact have negative benefits); and (ii) distracts from what should be the key approach of infiltrating the rainfall into the soil that it falls upon and, if surface runoff occurs, to halt it, infiltrate it, and store it in the soil for use by crops and to recharge groundwater.
2. The use of soil bunds to control erosion and halt runoff results in less soil moisture recharge.  It is true that near the bunds there is additional soil moisture recharge, but bunds halt the runoff and concentrate it, and the significant “excess” needs to be channeled safely off the field.  With vetiver hedges the is no “excess”.  The hedges halt the runoff and, being semipermeable, spread it out and allow it to move through slowly and infiltrate both above and below the hedge.  Done correctly, most of the rainfall that falls on the famers’ fields will be infiltrated and stored for use in their soils (and will recharge groundwater).
3.  In the arid and semi-arid areas of India, evaporation from open water surfaces (farm ponds, nalla bunds, village tanks, etc.) can be up to 3,500 mm per year (  When water is stored in this way, very significant amounts of it is lost to evaporation.  If the goal of water storage is for other than domestic and livestock use, it is better to enhance soil moisture and groundwater storage where it will not result in vast quantities of water being lost through direct evaporation into the open air.
4.  Unknown downstream impacts.  Over the centuries, villages in India had come to rely upon a status quo hydrologic system -  that is, village tanks and nalla bunds historically were recharged as a result of the land and water usage patterns that defined their catchment’s hydrology.  The rise in the last decades of the microwatershed approach of capturing 100% (or almost 100%) of the water upstream in many cases is alleviating one villages water shortages at the expense of another villages historic water supply.  Water has become so scarce in India’s arid and semi-arid zones (and even much more so when you realize how much of the existing water supply is contaminated and not available for domestic, livestock or agricultural use as a result) that it has to be understood as a zero sum proposition. Agencies/associations of what ever kind that are trying to help poor villagers need to think beyond the microwatershed to the larger watershed and join together with others to find approaches that do not rob one farmer to benefit another!

The beauty of Vetiver grass hedgerows is that when applied to a micro catchment they will benefit all farmers who use them (most importantly soil moisture, and increased soil fertility, crop yields, reduced soil loss, reduced pest damage, improved drought proofing, increased forage and other benefits). Catchment groundwater increases results in improved well water levels, and spring and stream flows.  None of these actions/results will be detrimental to downstream users - in fact downstream users of all kinds will all benefit from improved hydrology and reduced sediment flows in streams and rivers.  The overall investment and maintenance costs will be lower, and the dependence on costly and often ineffective government services will be reduced.

The above statements are all backed by research data and observations from many different countries.  Additionally there are plenty of examples from farmers and other users that show how using vetiver grass hedgerows have completely changed the lives of farmers and have protected their lands to the extent that have enabled other beneficial farm practices.  Here are links to few such examples:

Those who use Vetiver Grass hedgerows attest very positively to their benefits; problems remain in disseminating the technology to potential users, and the failure of policy makers and technicians to recognise the real and costly issues relating to the traditional engineering approach that has on the whole failed to serve the small and poor farmers in the developing world.

Listen to Caleb Omolo who farms 5 acres in Kenya.  He has got it right!!

Dick Grimshaw and Jim Smyle

Vetiver Grass as a Forage
Texas - after burning Feb 4 2014
The same  - May 27 2014
Probably for millenia the Falani cattle owners of Niger have burned the vetiver grass (Chrysopogon nigritana - common to Africa) that grows naturally on the Niger River flood plains to feed their cattle on the new growth.  Every now and then we read about vetiver being fed to livestock with success, and research results show that when managed correctly vetiver is a nutritive and palatable forage.  The latest feedback from Warren Sullivan, who has been growing vetiver on his land adjoining Trinity Bay, Texas, further underscores the potential of vetiver as a forage crop.

Currently vetiver is normally used for forage as a bi-product from environmental applications. Climate change could make vetiver an interesting forage crop due to its wide range of adaptability, drought tolerance and very high biomass yields (70 tons/ha).  The land where Warren has grown the vetiver (shown in these photos) has a high water table which may well account for some of the extraordinary growth.  Gueric Boucard in the Dominican Republic grows vetiver on saline soils and achieves similar production levels.  In many parts of the world, particularly in northern India and Pakistan there are thousands of hectares of saline soils that are waterlogged and have low productivity (In the Indian State of Haryana there are over 500,000 ha).  Vetiver should grow well on such soils.  It is time that national and regional research stations start looking at the potential of forage vetiver. Data needs to be collected on optimal feeding and harvesting times, management (cut and carry, strip grazing, tethered grazing) nutritional and palatability values, forage yields, and costs of establishment and maintenance.  Different vetiver cultivars need to be tested and analyzed - we know for example that in south India farmers have identified cultivars that are good for forage.

I suggest that readers who would like to use vetiver for forage get in touch with their local research agronomists and persuade them to take some action.
Dick Grimshaw