NZ Farming


Imagine a one plant system that could repair and protect all that is falling environmentally short in New Zealand farming.

Around the world Vetiver is widely used for erosion control, sediment, pollution control (on both land and water), flood mitigation and landscaping. Possibly the most tested/proven grass on earth.  There is no other plant or systems like this.

From a dairy background; Vetiver Systems NZ has applied its knowledge to rural New Zealand.  VSNZ can provide farmers with a strategic advantage.

The following is not an engineers installation manual. In everyday language I would like to share an idea that I believe is a real and significant leap forward.

The future of farming must be based on nature repairing and protecting itself.


Riparian strips

Introducing a better way.

Developed for New Zealand by VSNZ


A riparian strip is a fenced planting around a waterway. Its purpose is to reduce the amount of nutrient, pollution and sediment entering a waterway. It is a natural filter.

Traditional fenced riparian plantings involve some randomly placed plants, commonly flax, cabbage trees, sedges and often a normal loose grass zone. A key advantage is the buffer zone between the fence and the water’s edge. Without stock it can absorb and process some pollution. The main issue is that much of the nutrient/pollutant laden surface and sub surface water continues to enter our waterways through these traditional riparian strips, especially at times of higher rainfall. It is logical that water will find its way past some plants and into the waterway at times of test. Is this traditional riparian system really a system? Should we be spending millions of dollars on this idea? Are we happy with reasonably small increases in water quality?

Vetiver is the only plant meeting all the criteria for phytoremediation. Vetiver is able to process a much wider range of elements much faster than other plants.

When vetiver is grown as a continuous hedge (no gaps) the 800mm wide, dense thatch type base of vetiver grass is extremely good at slowing/spreading water, filtering water through the plant base, trapping and treating sediment in the process. The roots form an underground wall, 800 mm wide by 5 metres deep. This underground wall of performance roots is instrumental in the controlled distribution of water down the massive root structure and into the soil where the plant can uptake and process the water, nutrient and pollution. Install the the vetiver system correctly and water must be received and treated by the vetiver.

vetiver roots

The vetiver system for riparian planting recommends three or more rows of vetiver grass especially across key water shed areas. If there is a gap or water flow is high, overflow is caught by the next hedge row.

Some benefits of Vetiver grass riparian strips


* Vetiver offers a comprehsive system utilizing continuous rows planted across water flow. Water has to flow through the system and be treated above and below ground by this high performance plant.

*Deep leaching of contaminants requires deep (5 metre deep) roots to absorb them.

*A one plant solution. Vetiver will happily grow in all zones from wet mud to dry clay or sand.

*Multipurpose. Vetiver can offer solutions for pollution, sediment, erosion control and flood damage mitigation at the same time.

*A hydrophyte, Vetiver can survive for weeks underwater if it becomes submerged.

*Once established vetiver is very hardy, it can survive storm water currents.

*Free valuable production space for grazing. Using the concentrated high performance Vetiver system for riparian planting means that riparian strips can be much narrower. One to four rows (3metres wide) out perform traditional plantings.

*Rows are normally planted one metre apart. This allows vetiver to gain control over the weeds. Any peripheral weeds are best removed once or twice a year. Care with weed spray is required.

*It is possible to plant close to the fence. A feed rail on the top of the fence allowing cattle to graze on the Vetiver (Vetiver can be used as drought proof stock grass).

*The dense base of Vetiver is very good at trapping and treating nutrient laden particles. Vetiver does not mind if sediment builds up behind it. It adjusts naturally.

*Vetiver is unique because it not only treats a very wide range of elements (much wider than any other plants). Vetivers processing speed and limits are very high i.e. given more nutrients/contaminants and water it will continue to process more. Other plants tend to top out i.e. when they have had too much of an element/s the plant will slow its processes, it may look unwell and possibly die. Vetiver is tolerant to high levels of agro chemicals especially nitrogen and phosphate.

*Vetiver grass provides an excellent habitat for beneficial insects, frogs and water fowl.

*Vetiver is an excellent nurse plant/ground cover for native plants. Plants like Cabbage trees, Nikau, Kauri and Pukatea are selected and spaced to let the sun into the Vetiver. Because vetivers wall of roots go straight down in an underground wall across the slope the moisture and nutrient levels tend to increase helping other plants flourish. Planted in rows Vetiver grass establishes quickly creating a low canopy that controls weeds.

*Vetiver is great for coastal riparian planting. It does not mind salt water on its roots. Vetiver grows well in sand (but may require watering initially) and is great for sand dune control. Planted to reduce direct/constant salt water on the leaves. Established vetiver will stand heavy wave action and recover if washed by a storm.

*Vetiver works well in areas of current or historical pollution entry points.

*Vetiver will survive maintenance free. For it to thrive I recommend an annual trim to knee height. Sprinkle with blood and bone and remove any weeds.

Vetiver for riparian planting is a one plant solution. From water’s edge to dry clay all you need is vetiver. A tested, complete, concentrated system that out performs. Let’s truly clean our waterways.

I look forward to talking to you about a complete plan for your waterway.


Farm Erosion

From the time land was cleared farm erosion has been an issue.  Many have scratched their heads about how to repair and control this problem.   When the Vetiver system is installed correctly in hedge rows the 800mm wide dense, complex roots interlock and bind with the earth to 5 metres deep protecting your property and the value in it.


At VSNZ we have been developing the use of Graydons.   A Graydon is  a square shaped wire grate that covers and protects the vetiver grass from being over eaten/trampled.  Graydons allow the power of the Vetiver system for erosion in any open field.   It is low maintenance. This  system offers the added bonus of stock access to graze the Vetiver.  In a drought Vetiver will be thriving, offering a valuable source of food.

It is reasonably easy to make a Graydon, simply bend wire mesh twice to form a square shaped n.  The rigid gridded wire comes in many forms, originally used for reinforcing or urban fencing etc. It is recommended that the hole spacing is small enough that stock cannot get there hoofs stuck in it.  It is best to use rigid galvanised steel mesh.  This type of cover should be approximately 50cm high x 60cm wide. This basic system is ideal for hill country sheep farms.  To date there has been no problem with cattle (beef stock) damaging them, they seem to move around them OK. A good plan and placement will prevent damage issues.

Cattle may be more suited to a 1 to 2 (1 to 3 rows of Vetiver) metre wide fenced strip. A feed rail along the top offering protection to the fence whilst cattle graze on the Vetiver to the correct height. The two fence lines can be braced to each other for extra strength. It is highly recommended that a weed mat is installed at the time of planting to greatly reduce maintenance. The woven bio tech type weed mat lasts a very long time. The Vetiver plant itself lives over 200 years. It is 100% non-invasive. It will only grow where you plant it.

Compared to other erosion control options the Vetiver system for erosion offers you the most coverage for the least invested. As it could double as a valuable drought stock food the question maybe, can you afford not to.

Maintain by removing any weeds. An application of fertilizer at least once a year in the spring will ensure strong growth.


Drought Proof Grass

Imagine a nutritious grass that grows up to 1.5 metres high in dense clumps up to 900mm wide, never requires irrigation and thrives in the driest drought.

Stock find Vetiver palatable. Cattle and sheep will eat the new growth when other food is low.  Vetiver is tolerated/digested like other pasture grasses.  It has a similar food value to Kikuyu grass. As vetiver is utilising nutrition from 5 metre roots the mineral content is high. Protein is increased by using fertilizer or effluent and harvesting the new growth.

The intention is that vetiver can be part of a useful strategy to supplement stock food in dry seasons.

Vetiver is not like any other grass and as such is managed differently.  If cattle simply graze on it incorrectly they could eventually damage the crown affecting its recovery however it will recover.  It is normally harvested in one of four different ways.  1) Evenly spaced clumps of 4-8 plants allow stock to move around the Vetiver without seriously damaging the plants. Stock should graze the new growth down to 20-50 cm high. This does require a little management. In the winter stock will choose pasture grass over the hard older base of vetiver grass.  Vetiver is intended to be a Cattle food more than a sheep food. Some sheep breeds will only nibble on it.  Stock should be removed after grazing to the recommended level.  2) When field planting in rows the Vetiver can be cut at knee height and fed out. An expected yield of 20-30 tonne per hectare during the growing season (spring summer).  Alternatively Vetiver can be harvested, dried and added to hay. 3)  Using graydons (a gridded steel cover) stock can freely graze on it.  4) Stock can graze vetiver over a feed rail on top of a fence set to a specific height (e.g – along riparian strips).

Established Vetiver plants thrive in temperatures 20-58 degrees Celsius. Five metre deep roots assist Vetivers extreme drought tolerance. Vetiver grows in the summer and slows when temperatures dip below 14 degrees. It was recommended that vetiver should be planted north of Taranaki.  We have had good results in Wellington and Nelson however if you are in a heavy frost zone i.e. more than 10 heavy frosts a year you may wish to re think. Vetiver does not like snow or full shade.  Vetiver grass is planted spring and summer.  Vetiver grass has no known pests or diseases. A basic weed control plan may be required.  Unmanaged, kikuyu grass can grow over the Vetiver affecting its health. Normal grazing is usually enough to maintain this. Occasional frost can brown the tips but does not harm the plant.  At least an annual application of fertilizer will ensure good production and aid long term health.

As Vetiver grass is a specialist in other areas of New Zealand agriculture ( as listed on this page ).  You may choose to multipurpose your investment.  Effluent management and riparian planting can provide the moisture and nutrition for maximum growth / harvest. The drainage of low or boggy land can be much improved by evenly spacing clumps of 3-4 plants throughout the area. Vetivers dense, deep root systems are useful for allowing ground water drainage thus assisting the return of productive land.  Potentially multipurpose. Summer stockfood, winter drainage, pollution and erosion control.

It would appear that our climate is changing, slowly but surely as predicted. The experts believe this may become exponential.  Will droughts become a normal part of farming life?  How bad could it get?  What is your strategy? It is possible that Vetiver grass may be the only cattle food that would survive an extreme event/s.

When should I start planting Vetiver grass? In New Zealand it takes three years for a Vetiver grass plant to fully establish.  If you would like it to be resilient at times of test and offer the growth and nutrition required it is recommended that you plant now.   If our environment changes you will need to be ready.  Vetiver grass is not like pasture grass and it may not be a complete solution but it could be a critical part of your strategy, it may be one of the only drought / global warming options. Vetiver plants can live over 200 years.


Effluent Management

Vetiver is one of the few plant species meeting all the criteria for phytoremediation. For this purpose no other plant has all the physiological and morphological attributes of Vetiver grass. Of key value is the massive 5 metre deep root system. This highly absorbent, complex, very large root system can absorb a wide range of pollution/elements and process it quickly. Underground leaching cannot escape this comprehensive underground root network and thus treatment. Vetiver doesn’t just survive in this type environment it can thrive in high concentrations of nitrates, phosphates, chemicals and bacteria.

Are you currently spraying highly nitrated soluble farm waste over grazing pasture? Is this environmentally sound? Is it adding to a deep problem? No matter how you currently manage farm waste I believe the Vetiver system offers a better solution.

When vetiver is used for effluent management it is a stable containment system for two reasons .

Nitrates, phosphates, chemicals and bacteria processed by the plant are dispersed via normal vetiver processors. Heavy metals not processed are stored by the plant (mostly in the roots). Vetiver is suitable for phytostabilization. Normal dairy effluent is not known for high heavy metal content and because most heavy metals are stored in the roots, Vetiver is regarded as safe stock food from most effluent fields.

It is a containment system because via the three methods that follow all waste must pass through the Vetiver system and be treated by this unique pollution performer.
This type of effluent field system may not have been considered in the past because no other plant has all the attributes of Vetiver.

Research and development over the last 15 years proving Vetivers worth in contaminant management.

VSNZ believes this is a significant step up from existing systems.

The amount of Vetiver grass required depends on how you intend to use the vetiver field. Vetivers processing speed slows to approximately half (like many other plants) in the winter. This is accounted for when planning the size of the field. Plant numbers are loosely based on 20 to 30 plants per head of milking stock.

It is best to fence off the effluent field. The field is maintained by trimming to knee height from spring until autumn.It is possible to use the trimmings as mulch or cattle fodder . Vetiver will grow quickly in this environment and can be fed out many times a year. This can be a valuable part of your drought feed strategy.

2)Effluent pond riparian strips

If the effluent pond has no lining then it is highly recommended that a number of rows are planted around the pond. The intention is to comprehensively control nutrient / contaminant concentrations at every level.

3)Floating wetlands

The most efficient way to deal with water based pollutants is to float vetiver on purpose made rafts. The large root systems processing efficiently at the source. Vetiver will thrive on floating wetlands from the Waikato northwards.

These three planting locations are part of one effluent control system.

To convince yourself about the processing speed/capacity of Vetiver grass please try the 4 day bucket test as pictured.

How do we have this system tested and approved by relevant authorities? By everyone asking for it.


Contaminated Land Treatment

Vetiver is one of the few plant species meeting all the criteria for phytoremediation. Vetivers dense up to 900mm wide and 5 metre deep root system help it to uptake, process and disperse a wide range of elements quickly.  Vetiver has a remarkably high pollution threshold.   Give it more elements/pollution and water to process and it will increase its processing rate.  Vetiver is able to remain healthy in toxic environments.  Vetiver has a high absorption rate for most heavy metals (especially zinc and lead). Whilst some are dispersed via normal Vetiver processors some are stored (mostly in the roots). Making Vetiver suitable for phytostabilization.

Vetiver plantings must be planned and installed correctly in order to maximise results.  VSNZ can help advise on this either by a site visit or communication and photos.

Hazardous activity zones include…

Current or historical – Septic waste areas, Effluent zones, Sheep dip or spray race operations, agrichemicals including areas used for filling, storing or washing out tanks, fertilizer bulk storage, fuel spill zones, farm landfill sites, persistent pest/herb/fungicide storage or use including spray drip zones in market gardens, orchards and greenhouses (especially vine crops), historical wood treatment zones including treated wood storage areas.  To name a few.

Personel safety

When installing Vetiver into a hazardous zone it is important to take the correct safety precautions.


Wet land restoration

Versatile Vetiver grass is an ideal system to use throughout the sun exposed wetland.

Planting to purpose

Vetiver offers a solution to increase, reduce or sustain water levels.  Removing pollutants in all of these scenarios.

Increasing water levels is achieved by planting rows across the out flow.  A continuous hedge of Vetiver creating a barrier allowing water levels to build up behind.   There are many examples of the Vetiver system returning  dry zones into a lush wetland forest.

Reducing water levels is achieved by blanket planting in key zones. Depending on the ground water source Vetiver can have a drying effect on swampy ground when planted in the correct way.   Vetivers massive 5 metre deep root system allow ground water drainage.  It is often used to return unusable land to usable.  Or a very wet zone to an area that could be planted.

Water is fluid.  For a wet land planting to be pollution effective we must pay attention to all water, surface and sub surface.  Vetivers comprehensive 5 metre deep root system absorbs and treats 10 times deeper than most wet land natives.   Numerous tests prove vetiver processes a wider range of elements/pollution faster than other plants.  (Detailed information available on request).

Vetiver is an excellent nursery plant for other plants especially when blanket planted to shade out weeds.  Providing the cool root run preffered by most NZ natives. Tall, slender trees like cabbage tress, nikau and pukatea are selected and spaced widely to let in sunlight. Vetiver does not act like a weed when planted around other trees / plants, in fact the opposite can occur. Plants tend to flourish when encircled by Vetivers moisture, nutrient balancing ability. Vetiver roots go straight down and not out like other grasses. Plants greatly benefit from the mycorrhiza activity associated with Vetiver roots.  A symbiotic relationship.

Vetiver can simply provide a one plant solution.  It can be the most effective environmental kidney for your land.  Offering a clean wildlife haven.

An attractive tropical grass, Vetiver is often utilized by landscaping companies.

The correct plan is a good place to start.


Dry soil solutions

groundwater controlOne of the many benefits of planting vetiver across a slope, is that it slows runoff, distributes it and allows it to penetrate and percolate into the soil. This action recharges groundwater levels and so benefits other plants in the area.

Vetiver is widely used internationally for groundwater control. It is common to find plants growing in the vicinity of vetiver hedge rows maintaining luxuriant growth right through dry periods.

Land which dries out in summer can be made useful with the help of Vetiver. This is especially true of clay and sand based soils.

Vetiver does not seem to compete with other plants, even when planted very close. Vetivers roots go straight down not outwards away from the plant. Vetiver works well with horticulture crops or native forest establishment.

Vetiver catches water and soil particles. Over time terraces can form behind the hedge, retaining fertility, preventing silt from fouling our waterways, and making the area easier to work.

Another way to increase soil moisture using vetiver is to use the vetiver cuttings as mulch. This high quality mulch has natural pesticide and fungicide qualities. Perfect for the vege garden!


Miracle Mulch

Our own citrus and feijoa trees were plagued with issues. The citrus had whitefly, aphids, blacksoot and yellowing leaves. The feijoa had guava moth.

After one year of putting Vetiver mulch under the trees all these problems have gone. The trees are all looking healthy and the fruit quality is very good. I imagine this mulch could be utilized in all sorts of applications. Alternatively simply plant vetiver around the outer drip line of the trees.

Vetiver is related to citronella grass. I cannot smell the oils in the leaves but insects can. Vetiver has natural pesticide and fungicide qualities.

For us it was not just an improvement it was a slam dunk. No more pests at all.


Can vetiver really do all of the above?

The answer is simply YES. A revolution in high performance environmental repair and protection.

Bear in mind that Vetiver is best grown north of Taranaki. Vetiver likes full sun locations. Whilst Vetiver will grow maintenance free. It is advised that your plantings receive some annual/biannual care. Vetiver likes a trim to knee height, a sprinkle of blood and bone fertilizer and basic weed removal in the late spring. The benefits should far outweigh any time spent on maintenance. This can be a relatively fast process, especially if you are a VETIVER FARM ( utilizing all of the above ).

Your Vetiver systems will give you over 200 years of reliable service.


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Thanks to TVNI for some of the images.