Monday, January 26, 2009

Fore!! Of course Vetiver takes on "rough" challenges

We Vetiver enthusiasts admire Vetiver as a truly multi-faceted plant. We tout its ability to stabilize slopes and stop erosion. Its roots smell great and disgust the Formosan ground termite. Vetiver removes contaminants from water and soil. However, it looks great, too! As a landscaping plant, it adds height to ornamental settings, and individual plants and hedges can be shaped and manicured. When allowed to bloom, its sterile purple flowers are striking.

Dick Grimshaw reported last week that the premier course Golf du Chateau in Mauritius features Vetiver on its links. Agriflora's Alberto Rodriguez was hot on the story. He reports:

It takes a spectacular setting such as the golf course Golf du Ch√Ęteau in the island of Mauritius to drive this point home and give us new appreciation for our hard-working plants. Landscape artist Patrick Watson selected the grass for this course, and Peter Matkovich of Matkovich and Hayes Golf Estates Solutions in South Africa transformed his vision into reality, using Vetiver to line the fairways. Vetiver was selected not only because of its beautiful contrast to the green paspalum at different times of the year, but for its ability to stabilize the soils on its steep slopes, particularly since Mauritius is subject to high rainfall. Needless to say, you don't want your ball to land in this “rough!”

As with most landscaping grasses, Vetiver needs care and maintenance to maintain this elegant look. Consistent watering, fertilization and bi-annual cutting and cleaning are required, but, for those up to the task, the results can be amazing.

Hawaii landscapers, course designers and developers, take note!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Madagascar--Vetiver a savior in desperate times

Through Dick Grimshaw, Yoann Coppin of Madagascar reports that he and his fellow Malagasy farmers are convinced that the Vetiver System can solve their many problems related to soil fertility, depleted water resources and other natural resource issues, particularly those implicated by the loss of tropical forest, and destruction of coral reef:

Since the end of December I have been in the village where in 2003 I undertook my first project with Vetiver on the East Coast: to conserve soil on sloping lands following cut and burning, and to promote sustainable agriculture. Although it has no electricity, no phone network, and no internet access, some rainforest remains, with an impressive biodiversity, and that is now rare in Madagascar. This village is a wonderful place, but the widespread deforestation, resulting from traditional agricultural practices, and exploitation of its precious wood resources, destroys more and more of its wealth. Cyclone Ivan and a particularly dry 2008 have impacted the vegetation, soil and groundwater. My 70-year-old friend has never seen the village's coconut trees in such poor shape: their leaves are brown, and only a few trees produced coconuts last year. We're supposed to be in the rainy season but the weather is dry and the sun shines hard. Educated people know that, apart from climate change, these changes are the result of the way we manage our environment. On the mountains, where some small forests survive, farmers cut and burn before cultivating, which reduces water and vegetation. No one takes care of the soil and maintains its fertility, even on sloping lands with fine, cultivable soils. During the rainy season, erosion strips the soil and leaves rivers full of sediment that ends up on the coral reefs. Mangroves are cut and burned for real estate development, resulting in more coastal erosion (fewer and fewer coral reefs and mangroves), less protection against cyclones, less groundwater, less fertile soil, and fewer forest and marine resources. Even as we watch our environnment diminishing year after year, no efficient initiatives are undertaken. The Vetiver System could be the solution, and I would like to start a new project.

In any case, since 2003 a lot of villagers have adopted Vetiver in this area. Before I initiated my project the area had no Vetiver. Only a few farmers adopted it to conserve soil and water because there was neither money nor time to sustain the project. In contrast, in another area where I worked for nearly two years for an NGO and introduced Vetiver, many farmers use Vetiver for farm soil and water conservation at their own initiative. They saw its benefits, especially for ginger and tumeric. When I first promoted the Vetiver System there, I gave farmers plant material and money to plant it on their land. Now they use Vetiver at their own expense. This proves that Vetiver is an efficient solution that farmers can apply on a large scale with huge potential for other applications. Now is the time to act, because the environnmental situation in Madagascar is desperate; the thermometer reads that only 10% of the rainforest remains.