Vetiver grass has many uses for farmers

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Vetiveria zizanioides commonly known as Vetiver grass is a perennial bunch grass which is native to India and is widely cultivated in the tropical regions of the world. It is closely related to sorghum but shares many morphological characteristics with other fragrant grasses like the lemon grass.

Vetiver grows up to 5ft high and forms clumps; the stems are tall and the leaves are long, thin and rather rigid. Vetiver roots grow downward to about 7ft - 13ft in depth and does not form stolon nor rhizomes hence not invasive and weedy.

Commonly used genotypes of vetiver do not produce fertile seeds. Vetiver is propagated from plant parts including shoots, crown and the roots. Mature tillers are split from mother plants that yields bare root slips for immediate propagation in a nursery. Clumps from the nursery are trimmed leaving leaves of about 15cm long and 8cm of root depth. The clumps are separated into slips with three tillers each which are then planted 10cm - 15cm apart. Weed management should be carried out after 3 months of germination and the top is cut back to 30cm - 35cm to promote tillering.

Vetiver grows in a wide range of soil types and is sustained in a wide range of climatic conditions. It requires minimum space for growing as it has an upright growth habit hence vetiver hedges can be introduced on farms with minimum changes to the existing farm layout. Ease of propagation of vetiver and low maintenance needed to keep a vetiver hedge in good shape is just enough. Vetiver is also resistant to pest and diseases, its fire resistant and repels rodents and other animals.

Uses of vetiver grass

Soil and water conservation: Vetiver forms narrow, dense hedges when planted along the contours of sloping land slowing down runoff and helping the water to soak into the soil rather than to wash away. The deep and massively thick root system of vetiver binds the soil making it very difficult to be dislodged under high velocity water flows.

Fodder: Regular harvesting of young leaves of vetiver which are more palatable provides feed for animals when there is scarcity since they have a nutritive value similar to that of Napier grass. With improved management, vetiver would make an adequate dry season fodder when combined with high protein forage.

Crop protection and pest repellent: Vetiver attracts stem borer which lays their eggs there but the larvae cannot move on the leaves hence falls down and die. Its extracts can also be used to repel termites.

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