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Vetiver Grass

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    29th Nov, 2018

Vetiver, ‘the wonder grass’ of Tamil Nadu is being grown by the inland farmers in last few decades due to its high returns despite low yield.

Context

Vetiver, ‘the wonder grass’ of Tamil Nadu is being grown by the inland farmers in last few decades due to its high returns despite low yield.

About

Vetiver grass

  • Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver is a perennial bunchgrass of the Poaceae family, native to India.
  • Vetiver grows to 150 centimetres (5 ft) high and form clumps as wide. Under favourable conditions, the erect culms can reach 3m in height.
  • The stems are tall and the leaves are long, thin, and rather rigid. The flowers are brownish-purple.
  • Unlike most grasses, which form horizontally spreading, mat-like root systems, Vetiver's roots grow downward, 2 metres (7 ft) to 4 metres (13 ft) in depth.
  • Shoots growing from the underground crown make the plant frost and wildfire resistant, and allow it to survive heavy grazing pressure.
  • Though it originates in India, it is widely cultivated in tropical regions. The major vetiver producers include Haiti, India, Indonesia, and Réunion islands.
  • The most commonly used commercial genotypes of vetiver are sterile.
  • Vetiver propagates itself by small offsets instead of underground stolons, these genotypes are non-invasive and can easily be controlled by cultivation of the soil at the boundary of the hedge.

Uses of vetiver grass

       Soil conservation

  • The downward growth of roots makes it an excellent stabilizing hedge for stream banks, terraces and rice paddies, and protects soil from sheet erosion.
  • It has been used to stabilize railway cuttings/embankments in geologically challenging situations in an attempt to prevent mudslides and rock falls, such as the Konkan railway in western India.
  • It penetrates and loosens compacted soils.
  • Vetiver mulch increases water infiltration and reduces evaporation, thus protects soil moisture under hot and dry conditions. It also protects against splash erosion.

Crop protection and pest repellent

  • It attracts the stem borer (Chilo partellus), which lay their eggs preferentially on vetiver. Due to the hairy architecture of vetiver, the larvae cannot move on the leaves, fall to the ground and die.
  • Vetiver's essential oil has anti-fungal properties against Rhizoctonia solani
  • As mulch, it is used for weed control in coffee, cocoa and tea plantations.
  • The leaves of vetiver are a useful by-product to feed cattle, goats, sheep and horses.
  • Vetiver (Khus) is also used as a flavoring agent, usually as khus syrup.

       Perfumery and aromatherapy

  • Due to its excellent fixative properties, it is used widely in perfumes.
  • It is contained in 90% of all western perfumes and is more common ingredient in fragrances for men.

Medicine

  • It is used for nerve and circulation problems.
  • It is sometimes applied directly to the skin for relieving stress, as well as emotional traumas and shock; treating lice; and repelling insects.
  • It is sometimes inhaled as “aromatherapy” for nervousness, trouble sleeping (insomnia), and joint and muscle pain (rheumatism).

Traps pollutants

  • This plant is capable of absorbing heavy metals from contaminated soil. It absorbs nitrate and phosphate from water bodies where algal growth is common.
  • Its proponents say preliminary tests suggest it traps carbon dioxide so effectively that it could reduce Delhi’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Other uses

  • It is used as roof thatch (it lasts longer than other materials) and in mud brick-making for housing construction (such bricks have lower thermal conductivity).
  • It is also made into strings and ropes, and grown as an ornamental plant (for the light purple flowers).
  • Garlands made of vetiver grass are used to adorn the murti of Lord Nataraja (Shiva) in Hindu temples. It is a favourite offering to Ganesha.
  • It has been used in an effort to track where mosquitoes live during dry seasons in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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