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Vetiver Grass as a Forage

Friday, June 13, 2014

Texas - after burning Feb 4 2014
The same  - May 27 2014
Probably for millenia the Falani cattle owners of Niger have burned the vetiver grass (Chrysopogon nigritana - common to Africa) that grows naturally on the Niger River flood plains to feed their cattle on the new growth.  Every now and then we read about vetiver being fed to livestock with success, and research results show that when managed correctly vetiver is a nutritive and palatable forage.  The latest feedback from Warren Sullivan, who has been growing vetiver on his land adjoining Trinity Bay, Texas, further underscores the potential of vetiver as a forage crop.

Currently vetiver is normally used for forage as a bi-product from environmental applications. Climate change could make vetiver an interesting forage crop due to its wide range of adaptability, drought tolerance and very high biomass yields (70 tons/ha).  The land where Warren has grown the vetiver (shown in these photos) has a high water table which may well account for some of the extraordinary growth.  Gueric Boucard in the Dominican Republic grows vetiver on saline soils and achieves similar production levels.  In many parts of the world, particularly in northern India and Pakistan there are thousands of hectares of saline soils that are waterlogged and have low productivity (In the Indian State of Haryana there are over 500,000 ha).  Vetiver should grow well on such soils.  It is time that national and regional research stations start looking at the potential of forage vetiver. Data needs to be collected on optimal feeding and harvesting times, management (cut and carry, strip grazing, tethered grazing) nutritional and palatability values, forage yields, and costs of establishment and maintenance.  Different vetiver cultivars need to be tested and analyzed - we know for example that in south India farmers have identified cultivars that are good for forage.

I suggest that readers who would like to use vetiver for forage get in touch with their local research agronomists and persuade them to take some action.
Dick Grimshaw


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