SOIL Partnership Gets Vegetative with Vetiver Experiment

One of the vetiver experimental plots in Port-au-Prince

One of the vetiver experimental plots in Port-au-Prince

We love looking at the effect of compost on agricultural production, and we love it when other organizations take an interest too! This time we have teamed up with Caribbean Flavors and Fragrances S.A. (CFF), a Haitian company in Port-au-Prince that manufactures essential oils, and the Sustainable Lush (SLush) funding program through the handmade cosmetics company Lush.

This agriculture experiment focuses on vetiver, a robust plant whose roots contain an essential oil that CFF extracts and Lush incorporates into many of its cosmetic products. Vetiver (scientific name Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a perennial bunchgrass perhaps not quite as well known as its fragrant cousins lemongrass and citronella, but it is gaining in popularity. Vetiver is also often used as an erosion control plant as its deep roots can maintain soil on stiff slopes, where rains often cause topsoil erosion. Haiti is the first producer of vetiver oil in the world, and its quality is recognized as one of the best.

The vetiver experiment in Cap-Haitien planted with beans

The vetiver experiment in Cap-Haitien planted with beans

Over the next year and a half, we will be looking at vetiver production in three different experimental sites – two SOIL sites and one CFF site, as soil quality is one important aspect of vetiver oil quality. Each of the sites contain parcels varying four different amounts of compost: 0, 25, 50, and 75 tons of compost per hectare. At one of the sites we are also looking at the effect of a bean species intercropped with the vetiver, which will bring much-needed nitrogen to the soil.

Not only will it be interesting to see the difference in vegetative growth among the different vetiver plots, but also the resulting differences in essential oil yield and essential oil quality when we send harvest samples to CFF after 9, 11, and 13 months of production. We are only a few months into this experiment, but we look forward to reporting on the results of this experiment later on this year!



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4 Replies to "SOIL Partnership Gets Vegetative with Vetiver Experiment"

  • Chris
    May 12, 2016 (11:17 pm)

    Vetiver has also been used to treat wastewater. (I have yet to do so, but want to soon.) Sometimes they plant contour lines on the soil and run the water through it on and in the soil. Other times, Vetiver is adapted to rafts for flotation and the roots extend meters down into the water. This might be worthwhile in your bucket-washing operation … and there would be no hygiene issue, since the roots would be boiled to extract the essential oil. It would be a great business to convert sh*t into perfume.

    On a separate note, what suggestions do you have for doing EcoSan in emergency relief camps, for us to apply on the Coast of Ecuador? Check out these designs for simple, quick ArborLoos and UDDTs:
    (mostly in Spanish with a brief English summary, but the drawing hopefully speak for themselves)
    I just got back on Monday from the earthquake zone and there was great interest in the Waterless Urinals

    Best wishes

    • Erica Lloyd
      May 17, 2016 (2:00 pm)

      Hi Chris,

      Yes, we actually already use vetiver in our secondary treatment basin at our compost site! And we love the poop to perfume idea!

      These are neat resources – I’ll pass them on to our technical team! Do you know if we could share these links on our Resources page?

      Have you seen SOIL’s paper, “Piloting ecological sanitation (EcoSan) in the emergency context of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake”? It’s available on the Publications page in our Resources section.

      Erica Lloyd
      Systems Director

  • Cyndi
    July 3, 2016 (8:08 pm)

    Just curious: Did you take compost quantity into account when choosing which plot to try intercropping beans with vetiver? Intriguing experiment – scientific approach is part of what makes me proud to be a SOIL cultivator.

    • Monika Roy
      July 4, 2016 (5:03 pm)

      Hi Cyndi,
      Since there has been very little research on the effects of compost on vetiver, we did 4 repetitions of 4 different compost applications to our intercropped bean plot, varying from 0 to 75 tons/hectare. If we see any significant effect, we’ll be able to narrow this range to get more precise data. Hope this answers your question, and thanks so much for your continued support of SOIL!

      Monika Roy
      Project Coordinator
      SOIL Cap-Haitien

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