Article Index
1. Botany & Varieties
2. Vetiver types
3. Chemical Constituents
4. Medicinal Properties & Use
5. Soil & Climate
6. Propagation
7. Planting & Aftercare
8. Pest & Diseases
9. Harvest & Processing
Vetiver Cultivation in Sandy Tracts
All Pages

Scientific name:  Chrysopogon  zizanioides  (L.)    Roberty

Synonyms       :  Vetiveria zizanioides  (Linn.) Nash
                       V. odorata Virey, Andropogon muricatus Retz.

Family             : Poaceae

Vernacular names:
English           : Vetiver

Malayalam      : Ramacham

Hindi              : Khus

Sanskrit         : Usirah

Tamil             : Vettiver

 Botany & Varieties

A densely tufted perennial grass, with aromatic roots.
Leaves narrow, linear, erect,  sheath compressed,
Inflorescence is a panicle 15-40 cm  long, spikelets grey, green or purplish
Grains oblong 
Roots are aromatic, deep, extensive and fibrous.

Vetiver types

There are seeding and non seeding cultivars.
a. North Indian types
Seeding type, possess better aroma, superior oil quality
Rooting tends to be shallow, especially in damp soil.

b. South Indian types
Mostly non-seeding type, have extensive root system and  higher oil content.
It is densely tufted with a thicker stem, with less branching roots and wider leaves and it is the cultivated type. This is distributed throughout tropics. Since non-flowering, it does not spread naturally; it is reproduced by vegetative propagation and it is the type suitable for erosion control.

Improved varieties Release centre
ODV – 3    
AMPRS, Odakkali  

KS-1 & KS-2,         
CIM Vriddhi

CIMAP, Lucknow
Pusa Hybrid-8  
NBPGR, New Delhi

Chemical constituent

Vetiver roots contain a fragrant oil, considered as one of the finest aromatic oils. It is light brown to deep brown in colour.
Oil content  of  root - 0.5% to  1.5%

Chemical constituents:  Vetiverol, vetiverone and vetiveryl acetate

Oil is a high grade fixative and blends well with essential oils of sandal wood, lavender, patchouli , rose etc.


Parts used: Roots.

Use in perfumery
Vetiver oil extracted from the roots is a perfume by itself and is used in high value perfumeries,  cosmetics, soaps, skin care products etc. and for blending with other oils.

Medicinal uses.
 Formulations :
Drakshadikashayam,  Nishakathadati  kashayam, Rasnadichurnam, Rasnadi kashayam

Root is cooling, digestive, immune-modulatory, regulates menstruation and is useful in headache, burning sensations, ulcers, rheumatism and diseases of blood.

Roots are used for making medicated drinking water. It is effective in vomiting, diarrhea etc. and is cooling and refreshing.
It is also used as a water purifier.

It purifies blood, remove body odour and excessive sweating.

The roots form an ingredient in preparations for treatment of respiratory diseases, joint pains, skin diseases and stomach disorders.
 The fumes from the roots is aromatic and has germicidal and insect repelling activity.

Beds made of vetiver root can be used for patients suffering from rheumatism and back pain.

Vetiver oil

Dilute vetiver oil is good for cleaning and dressing infected wounds.

Inhalation of vetiver oil in boiling water is good for curing fever and respiratory diseases.

Massaging with the oil relieves body pain.

Vetiver oil is used in snake bites, cancer and microbial infections. 
Use of  vetiver helps to detoxify the effect of various toxins accumulated in the body.

Hair oil medicated with vetiver roots gives  a cooling effect and prevents hair fall.

Other uses
Roots are often kept along with clothes to repel insects. 

Roots are also used in various religious rituals.

Dry roots are used for making various handicraft items like mats, fans, screens, pillows, baskets, chappals, curtains, incense sticks and sachet bags.

Roots after oil extraction are used as a raw material for making cardboard, paper etc.

Young leaves are used as fodder and also as bedding material for horses and cattle.  Dry leaves are used for thatching purposes and for making brooms. 

Leaves made into pulp are suitable for making straw boards. The above ground portion is used in various ways such as making paper, ropes, mats, hats, baskets, for mulching, as substrate for mushroom culture and for making compost.

As a soil binder
Since the plant has  strong extensive fibrous roots, it is useful in both soil and water conservation. It is one of the best soil binders and is used throughout tropics to check soil erosion by planting along contour.  Non seeding South Indian types are ideal for this.

Grass is widely grown as protective partitions in terraced fields, as a border for roads and gardens, for demarcation of walkways  and in landscaping.

It can effectively check leachate in municipal and industrial waste dumps and reduce silting up of rivers and dams.
It is also used for purifying contaminated water bodies and for reclaiming marshy lands.

It accumulates cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic and nickel and tolerates many organic poisons making it suitable for phyto- remediation of heavy metal contaminated soil.
It is one of the best species for re-vegetation of mine tailings containing high levels of heavy metals (Pb, Zn, Cu, and Cd) and low levels of major nutrient elements (N, P, and K) and organic matter.


Vetiver prefers warm humid tropical and subtropical climate with an annual rainfall of 1000 2000 mm, up to an altitude of 1300 m, in a temperature range of 21oC to 44oC.

It is mainly cultivated as a rainfed crop in hill slopes.
Plant requires plenty of sunlight and long day condition.
Vetiver grows on almost all types of soils but a rich and well drained sandy loam is the best. It grows in saline and sodic soils, sandy soils, riverine soils, marshy areas and tolerates high degree of water logging and moisture stress.

Roots from crops grown in light soils yield very low percentage of oil whereas roots obtained from red lateritic soils with abundant organic matter are thick and contain more essential oil. 
Heavy soils make harvesting of roots difficult, with a loss of finer roots which contain most of oil.

Distribution and habitat: Vetiver is indigenous to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Haiti and Indonesia account for 80 % of total vetiver oil production in world.

In India, it is seen growing wild throughout Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Assam.  Though, it grows well on hillsides, natural habitat is low, damp sites such as swamps and bogs.

It is cultivated in states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.  
Uttar Pradesh produces the highest quantity of oil, mainly from wild plants.
Vetiver oil produced from North India is the best and costliest in world.


Propagation is mainly through  slips; North Indian types can be propagated through seeds also.

Slips separated from clumps of previous crops with rhizome portion intact having 15-20 cm of aerial portion is used. 
Slips thus obtained should be kept moist and stored in shade.
Dry leaves are removed from slips to avoid chances of spread of diseases.
About 40,000 slips are required for planting one acre.

Planting  &  aftercare

 The most suitable time for planting is early June to early August with onset of monsoon.
Land is prepared by 2-3 deep ploughings, farm yard manure or compost is applied at 2-4 tons/acre and planted in beds at a spacing of 45 x 30 cm.  Mulching with straw after planting helps to control weed growth.

Manures and fertilizers: Normally, fertilizer application is not practiced in fertile soils.
On poor soils, urea, rajphos and potash may be applied  at 25 kg, 70 kg and 20 kg per acre respectively. Entire dose of rajphos is applied basally; urea and potash are to be applied as 2 -3 splits.

Pest & Diseases

Vetiver is a very hardy crop. Infestation by diseases and pests is not of serious concern.

Termites infesting clumps
Root grubs -Phyllophaga serrata 
Stem borer, Chilo sp.
Scale insects

Control: Termites and root grubs are controlled by broadcasting lindane dust at 10 kg/acre before final ploughing.

Stem borer and scale insects are kept under check by the application of chlorpyriphos at 1 litre/acre.

Fusarium blight
Leaf blight disease caused by Curvularia trifolii

Control: Repeated spray¬ing and drenching with copper oxychloride or 1% Bor¬deaux mixture.

Harvest & processing

Roots are harvested after 15 24 months of planting but for maximum oil yield of good quality at 18 months.
 Crop is generally har¬vested during December-February by digging out clump along with its roots.
Length of roots varies from 10 35 cm.
Roots are washed and dried under shade for 1 2 days which improves olfactory quality of essential oil.
Prolonged drying in sun reduces oil yield. On an average, root yield is 1.5 t/acre from a two year crop.

Oil is extracted through hydro or steam distillation. Both fresh and dry roots can be distilled.   To obtain maximum oil yield and to shorten time of distillation, roots should be distilled when fresh.  Oil obtained from stored roots is more viscous and possesses a slightly better aroma than that obtained from freshly harvested roots.
About 36 - 72 hours are required for distillation.  Valuable quality constituents are obtained in high boiling fractions.
Two distinct fractions one lighter than water and other heavier than water are obtained from vetiver. Heavier the oil better the quality. These fractions should be collected separately and later mixed together.
Water content is totally removed by exposing to sun in an open container or by using a centrifuge.

Oil recovery
From fresh roots  0.3 0.8%
From dried roots 0.5 3.0% depending up on duration of distillation.

On an average, oil recovery is around 1% only on dry weight basis and 15 25 kg oil is obtained per acre per crop.



Journeying along the coastal areas of Chavakkad –Ponnani Taluks in Kerala state, we can come across a special system of cultivation not seen in other parts the state.  Vetiver,  the aromatic medicinal crop, is grown in this littoral sandy soil as an annual crop  in an area of 600 acres.   The lush green area planted with the traditional type of vetiver crop looks like rice fields. 
The sandy area remains saturated with water during rainy season and  gets dried once the rain ceases. Vetiver is perhaps the only ideal crop that can be grown under such extremities of situations.
The main operations in the cultivation in this tract takes place during January – February months.  Land preparation, planting as well as harvest of existing crop go side by side in the field during this period.
Slips for new planting is collected from the harvested crop.  After separation of roots, the slips with basal root portion intact is cut into 15-20 cm length, moistened and incubated in gunny bags for 2-3 days for sprouting.
The harvested fields are leveled after burning the stubbles and formed into plots for planting. Since the field is sandy upto 1 m depth, no ploughing or digging is required prior to planting. The sprouted slips are buried in the sandy field in rows at a spacing of 10-15 cm. The field is irrigated till the receipt of rains.

The crop is manured with organic manures like powdered Groundnut cake @ 80 kg/acre during 2nd and 4th month of planting and sand from interspaces is thrown over it. During August- September, Factomphos @ 150-200/ acre is also applied. Pruning the shoots is done 3- 4 times to promote tiller production and root yield. 
The crop is ready for harvest after one year. The roots are collected by digging deep upto 1 m and removing sand. The clumps are pulled out with root system intact, adhering sand is removed by vigorous shaking and the roots are separated from the shoot portion. The clumps are prepared as planting material for planting next crop.
The separated roots are first grouped into small bundles and these bundles are then tied together and made into bales of  40 -50 kg and marketed. An average of 100-150 bales weighing  4000 to 6000 kg roots are produced from an acre.

The roots from these soils are upto 1 m long and they are fine in nature. These are more suited for making handicraft items like mats, fans, screens, pillows, baskets, chappals, curtains, chair backs, incense sticks and sachet bags and for various medicinal uses. The oil content in these roots is comparatively and hence not suitable for oil extraction.
This traditional system of cultivation, unique to this area, is to be given adequate support and encouragement to enable the farmers to preserve it in a profitable and sustainable manner.
This acts as a successful model for evolving location specific cultivation techniques in potential areas for effective land utilization for income and employment generation.