The Mysore ethnic group from India have been growing vetiver for the past 200 years for use as animal fodder. The application of vetiver for
soil and water conservation has begun 50 years ago on the islands west of India. For over 30 years, a sugar company in Fiji has successfully grown vetiver to conserve soil and water in the sugar cane fields. Mr. Greenfield, World
Bank's technical expert on soil and water conservation for Asia, discovered that steepness of the slopes in the sugar cane fields has decreased to a level of 3 to 4 m. over the past 30 years of cultivation. So it was concluded that
vetiver cultivation in combination with treatment of the soil and crop rotation farming gradually created natural terraces on the land. This happens because vetiver has special characteristics capable of forming new clumps by
easily developing new shoots at the internode or new rhizome above the soil. After vetiver is grown, surface soil can be protected from erosion at least 3 to 5 times than without vetiver. In addition to the new sprouts, the roots
also expand and penetrate vertically thus holding the soil together.
Another positive attribute is that vetiver is not sensitive to sunlight and can separate into new culms and produce
inflorescences all year round. So vetiver will continue to grow tall which appears as if the natural steps are getting higher and higher. The process of creating and raising the natural terraces will come to an end when the slopes
are adjusted to the ground level. After vetiver hedgerows are formed, the next advantage is to enhance soil fertility by developing the surface soil, which is now easy because there is greater moisture (vetiver hedgerows can
preserve water between 25-70 percent). As the soil becomes more fertile, variety of crops including ground cover plants will grow abundantly. Moreover, the process of cutting the leaves to maintain the hedgerows and use as mulch
will create a natural balance by enhancing the organic contents, plant nutrients, and microorganisms in the soil which make it even more fertile (leaves cut from 4-month-old vetiver generate plant nutrients for the soil on an
average of N 1.29%, S 0.15%, P 0.20%, and K 1.3%, of the weight of dry grass). Furthermore, the root system penetrates more vertically than horizontally, and thus does not take up a large space to grow. For instance, vetiver
hedgerows at one year old and over only require an area not wider than 1.5 m. So using vetiver for conservation purposes takes up lesser space than other soil and water conservation measures such as creating an earth embankment.
For that, cash crops can be grown near the vetiver hedgerows without any problems.
In other words, vetiver possesses certain attributes suitable for soil and water conservation purposes.