Saturday, December 20, 2008

TVNI awards Vetiver Systems Hawaii a "Certificate of Technical Excellence"

This week The Vetiver Network International awarded several of its members well-deserved Certificates of Technical Excellence. These certificates recognize high quality work and a demonstration of a high level of knowledge in specific areas of the Vetiver System technology.

Classification of those certified and their area of excellence make it easier for potential customers to assess their capability and expertise. Vetiver Systems Hawaii LLC is very pleased to announce that it has received its Class 2 Certification for "Vetiver propagation and nursery management, soil conservation, and Vetiver information dissemination." VSH appreciates the support of its customers and readers, and congratulates its international friends and colleagues who also received certifications. The 2008 list includes:

Class 1: Qualified in at least three areas of specific applications:
Doug Richardson - USA Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Slope Stabilization, Landscaping and Agriculture
Mary Noah Manarang - Philippines Vetiver Propagation, Erosion Control, Slope Stabilization, and Contaminated Land Rehabilitation
Roley Noffke - South Africa Propagation, Erosion Control, Slope Stabilization, Contaminated Land Rehabilitation, and Vetiver Community Involvement

Class 2: Qualified in at least two areas of specific applications:
Norman Vant Hoff - Indonesia Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Waste Water Management and Pollution Control
Yoann Coppin - Madagascar Vetiver Propagation and Nursery management, Slope Stabilization, and Vetiver Community Involvement
Don Miller - New Zealand Erosion Control, Watershed Conservation, Vetiver Propagation and Comunity Involvement
Marco Forti - Italy Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Erosion Control, Soil Conservation and Vetiver Information Dissemination
Alberto Rodriguez - Puerto Rico Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Soil Conservation, and Vetiver Information Dissemination
Mary A. Wikowski - Hawaii Vetiver Propagation and Nursery Management, Soil Conservation, and Vetiver Information Dissemination

Sunday, December 14, 2008

If it's raining, it's Vetiver weather!

It doesn't take much to return Vetiver's true mission to front and center. Well, I suppose it depends on whether you consider 14 inches of rain in 12 hours to be "much."

Heavy rains on Oahu swamped local homes and farmlands on its North Shore, central island, and leeward coast, hitting hard the communities of Laie, Hauula, Haleiwa and Wailua, Waipahu and Waianae, among others. Raw sewage overflowed from Ewa Beach cesspools, and that problem resurfaced (!) in North Shore communities which historically suffer when their septic systems cannot handle heavy rain. Wahiawa and Sand Island wastewaster treatment plants overflowed, too. Honolulu Harbor and the beleagered Lake Wilson were the depositories. Military waste treatment facilities were equally unprepared. My Marines at MCB Kaneohe Bay lost thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into Kaneohe Bay and the Mokapu Central Drainage Channel. The army at Schofield Barracks deposited nearly a million gallons of effluent into Kaukonahua Stream and into its storm drains. Coastal waters turned brown from runoff, and motorists were greeted with the first mudslides of the season.

A levee in Waianae Valley constructed by the city to prevent water from flowing into residents' backyards along Puuhulu Road burst, forming a brown stream that destroyed the very yards it was intended to protect. Homeowner Virgil Haynes lost her beehives.

AND...a very simple technology could have anticipated the annual devastation and mitigated the results: the VETIVER SOLUTION.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cane Fire! Vetiver hedges protect sugar cane, too

This is the second story today that I've cockaroached from The Vetiver Network. The following exchange between Dick Grimshaw and John Greenfield addresses the application of the Vetiver System to agriculture dear to Hawaii: sugar cane fields and native forests.

From Dick Grimshaw:

The recent fires in California remind us of its devastation to property and to the local ecology. Often these fires are so hot that they burn off most of the ground vegetation. Recovery is
slow and, during the delay, the land is exposed to rainfall and resulting erosion, high rainfall runoff, and sometimes land slippage.

Plenty of evidence shows that it's difficult to burn green Vetiver. Although Vetiver may burn off, sometimes completely, when it's dry, it recovers quickly within weeks. This enables the hedge to meet its design objectives.

Green vetiver hedges are very dense, and fire has difficulty penetrating them. Under these conditions, the hedge acts as a fire break to slow creeping fires. Where Vetiver in Fiji was grown in conjunction with sugar cane it survived the annual fire that was set before the cane harvest.

On Vanuatu (South Pacific) Vetiver hedges were used to improve moisture and soil fertility to facilitate the replanting of forests destroyed by fire. This successful process is described on the TVNI website. The new forests were also subject to fire; those that were burned recovered quite quickly because the Vetiver started regrowing (ex-hibernation) as soon as the tree canopy was incinerated. The revived hedges reduced erosion and runoff which helped the trees to recover quickly.

Find representative images of this Vetiver recovery at:

John Greenfield responds:

Dick has made a valid point here: green Vetiver hedges in the tropics are virtually fireproof. Let me make a slight correction to keep the record straight.

Dick reports that Vetiver in Fiji grown in conjunction with sugar cane survived the annual fire that was set before the cane harvest.

Unlike nearly every other cane-growing country, no cane in Fiji was burned before harvesting. If it was, the sugar company penalized the grower, because burned cane results in slightly caramelized sugar that costs more to refine. In Fiji, growers burn the trash generated by the cane harvest. (Like Hawaii,) Fiji has no snakes, or dangerous vermin that would require a pre-harvest fire, but you do have to watch for hornets.

The amazing thing about Vetiver hedges in the cane fields is that, following harvest, the cane grows rapidly and in a matter of months completely shades the vetiver from the light. At the next harvest, (12 months later for ratoon crops ,18 months later for plant crops) the hedge is plunged into full sunlight, then must survive the heat of a trash fire before once again being shaded again by the next ratoon crop. This process repeats for years but doesn’t effect the Vetiver's viability. I don’t know of many plants that can withstand this rough treatment.

Vetiver breaks wind (!) and nurtures banana trees

Alrighty, then! Back to business--monkey business, that is.

California's "Dr. Banana," Doug Richardson, has worked with bananas and Vetiver for many years. A couple of years ago he and I chatted about Vetiver, bananas, and Hawaii's climate. I wondered whether Vetiver's proven effectiveness as a moisture barrier would contribute to mold in Hawaii banana trees. Doug assured me that Vetiver is an interesting chameleon. When conditions are wet, Vetiver acts as a wick to release moisture; it retains moisture during dry times.

Enjoy the following excerpts from a recent exchange between Doug and Criss Juliard, and John Greenfield's response:

From Criss:

Vetiver surrounds banana plantations as a windbreak along the coast in Morocco; in Senegal, we set up an erosion trial on a banana plantation. On a slight 3-degree slope, we planted one-half hectare with Vetiver hedgerows following the contour, and, next to it, one-half hectare without. Surprisingly, the banana trees planted next to the hedges produced ripe bunches about 4-6 weeks earlier than those without. We concluded that the Vetiver hedges retained moisture and made that moisture available to the plant, both strategic conditions for better growth and yield. While neither plot had drip irrigation, both had received the same amount of gravity-fed water.

In Senegal, I gave some vetiver plants to a plant pathologist friend, who transplanted them near some of his banana trees. He was surprised to observe the superior growth and development of the trees near the vetiver, compared to those further away from it, even though he didn't water the vetiver. When he dug a small trench around one of the banana trees to check its roots, he found its root system decidedly turned towards the vetiver, and concluded that a symbiotic relationship had developed between the two plants. He suspected that vetiver roots were better at dispersing water than his own watering regime. One of the problems we faced early in our relationship with Senegalese banana growers was their preference for flood irrigation. Slowly, large and small plantations converted to drip irrigation, measured and timed. Senegal has now been transformed from net importers of bananas to net exporters! Candidly, part of that shift resulted from the persistent civil disruptions in neighboring Ivory Coast countries that could no longer supply the Senegalese banana market.

I hope your expanded banana plantation is highly successful. Try installing Vetiver on some parts and not on others. In Morocco we've been planting bananas using a technique we learned in Lebanon. Plant a banana plant at each corner of a square meter (3') hole, and install an irrigation outlet at each hole. We found that planting the banana plant 50 cm below the surface eliminated nematode problems, and that one simple tie around the four grown trees eliminated the need for individual “tutors” and the risk of anything touching the bananas.

Doug's response:

I tried to obtain some photo images of a banana/Vetiver planting I did in California in 1999. In my experience, bananas and Vetiver work very well together. However, I found Vetiver's beneficial influence was not limited to bananas. Along with bananas, I planted dozens of other subtropical fruit trees that are considered marginal specialty crops in our area. Almost without exception their growth exceeded our expectations.

I agree that Vetiver greatly improves the moisture regime for the plants in its vicinity but I suspect that an equally powerful factor is the microbiological activity in the rhizosphere of the Vetiver and its attendant impact on the nutritional status and vigor of nearby plants. Vetiver's potential as a nurse crop has been touted in the literature and my experience is consistent. Its use as a windbreak is also a strong contributing factor to the rapid development of plants grown with Vetiver. I have used drip irrigation and microjets with bananas, and both produced acceptable results. Some papers suggest that drip is superior to sprays in the subtropics because it doesn't wet and cool the banana's pseudostems in our heat-deficient environment. However, the sprays provide more humidity. I need more time with a new planting to discern.

John's observations:

Let me add my 10 cents' worth. In the 1950s I set up two large banana plantations on sugar estates that were being closed in Fiji. We didn't use Vetiver because the plantations were on alluvial plains in a 6,000mm rainfall area too wet for sugar cane, but ideal for bananas. Bananas need about 40 litres of water a day to reach full production in nine months. The humidity created by high rainfall or too much irrigation encourages Cercospora leaf spot which affects the bunches reaching maturity. Once the tree has thrown a bunch it no longer will produce leaves, and Cercospora can wipe out the essential leaves before the bunch has filled out or ripened.

Irrigation is costly, and, in your case, Criss, Vetiver hedges would do a great job conserving moisture and holding it in the root zone, without humidity problems. But I think that another factor may be in play, and that is the role played by Vetiver’s Mycorrhiza in stimulating banana growth.

Moisture conserved by Vetiver hedges planted across the slope will stimulate and sustain the crops grown by subsistence farmers, and will become increasingly important as the global recession expands. Developing countries will have to support themselves as aid agencies exhaust their funds. Using Vetiver hedges to conserve moisture in Andhra Pradesh, India, farmers actually produced an excellent crop of millet in an area that had been declared a drought disaster.


Your 10 cents is always worth more than a gold mine!

Bananas and proper drainage:
I have not lived in areas with 6,000mm rainfall, but Cercospora leaf disease devastated plenty of small Senegalese banana farms because of overwatering, excess dampness in the roots, and poor soil drainage. Specialists in the Caribbean suggest that healthy banana plants need less than the 40 liters you suggest; they recommend 14 liters/day, spaced over a period of not less than four hours. Bananas that get more water than that are prone to root-based diseases, at least Grand Nain, the variety we were battling. We used raised beds with deeply planted Vetiver. During the rains, Vetiver absorbed and evapo-transpired excess water; during the dry season, Vetiver reduced drought stress by maintaining humidity in the root zone.

At the time, I was not familiar with Mycorrhiza mycelia and the way it worked. As you addressed, mycelia increases roots' ability to absorb nutrients from the soil beyond those the root system can grasp on its own. Nabil El Chowk, my partner in Morocco, has been researching for several years the effect of inoculating plants with Mycorrhiza mycelia he collects from and near roots in different parts of parched lands, where plants grow in a continuous state of stress. He explained to me that Mycorrhizae found near and in vetiver roots have unusual capacities to increase growth and survival of fruit trees, vegetables and ornamental flowers grown on the farm.

So our challenge is how to add to our already bulging Vetiver tool box that the plant not only improves food crop production through soil moisture retention, but also establishes a symbiotic relation, examined through a unique Mycorrhiza in and near Vetiver roots, that allows food crops to develop more efficiently in poor soils. Doug simply refers to the phenomena as the “microbiological activity in the rhizophere.” How do we better market these two advantages in regions where Vetiver is most needed?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Alchemy Works" weighs in

Are talk of the ruinous economy and its actual effects on you and your business getting you down? seems that the scent of Vetiver may help!! (It certainly can't hurt...) Our friends at Alchemy Works provide outta sight insight, and a recipe for success!

The roots of this Earth plant (Vetiver) are ground and added to incense mixtures to give them an earthy, sensual scent. Vetiver is uplifting and helps maintain emotional calm, especially when flashbacks are experienced. Its essential oil is called the Oil of Tranquility. This magick herb is sometimes helpful in processing grief and promotes restful sleep and calm dreams. It is said to help in overcoming negative or fallow times as well. This protective herb is sometimes used magickally to promote love, especially between gay people (showing some Mercury here). Consistent with Mercury/Hermes as the patron of merchants and thieves, some businesspeople keep a bit in the cash register to attract money and repel thieves.

Non-Magickal Uses
The fibers of this lemongrass relative are often woven into sleeping mats that release a cooling fragrance when slept on. Rats and bugs hate the smell, so it makes a great sachet, keeping away moths and adding a pleasant scent to clothing. It works as a fixative in perfumery and soapmaking, and is a nice alternative to orris root. Add it to fix Earth-based potpouri that includes mosses, lichens and nuts, or combine 1:1 with white sandalwood to make a Vetiver incense. Vetiver is sometimes associated with Capricorn (December 21-January 20).