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A grass which can grow almost anywhere in the world and which has been field tested in India may save world agriculture by checking soil erosion, according to World Bank experts. The miracle grass is vetiver which has been undergoing four years of field trials backed by more than 30 years of observations. The World Bank technical staff in India have now reported success in their tests with the vetiver as a simple method of reducing soil erosion and increasing moisture in soils, resulting in higher crop yields in the dry land tropics. The deep rooted grass offers a practical way to prevent erosion at the source and modify the vast environmental and economic problems erosion causes. Vetiver could be a low cost way to protect billions of dollars of investments in agriculture, forestry, public works and the environmental worldwide, according to the Bank. Teams from over 20 nations have already visited India to see how the vetiver is growing. Each year, Asia loses about 25 billion tone of topsoil because of erosion and the US about a billion ton, according to R.G. Grimshaw, division chief of the World Bank’s Asia region.
He told a press conference that Zimbabwe with only six million people loses nitrogen and phosphate valued at 2.5 billion a year because of erosion.
Vetiver is a special grass, not like lawn grass or the tall grass of the wastelands. The roots go straight down and do not encroach into crop land. Vetiver can grow in deserts or swamps and it can thrive in rocky surfaces and in fine soil. It is resistant to pests. When planted as a hedge, vetiver acts as a barrier against soil erosion and the hedge will last for centuries.
‘The vetiver system’, said John Greenfield, a World Bank consultant who has done soil conservation work in India, Fiji and other countries, is easy to understand and implement, costs next to nothing and could be quickly adopted by millions of farmers, corporations, and Government. Vetiver grows practically on any soil.
Vetiver grass technology is currently being introduced in a number of developing country’s agricultural programmes supported by the World Bank, including those in India, China, the Philippines, Sir Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria and Madagascar. “The grass grows everywhere under different names. So we don’t have to introduce it to countries”, according to Grimshaw.
Developed countries including Australia and the US are also looking into the potential benefits of vetiver for domestic use.
Introduction of vetiver grass will