Vetiver and the carbon cycle


Carbon particles are the foundation of life. Continuously mistreating them (via human activity) will cause an imbalance in the cycle. Too much carbon in the atmosphere causes the earth to warm.

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, securing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The idea is to stabilize excess carbon in solid and dissolved forms so it doesn't cause the planet harm.

When it comes to carbon sequestration, some plants are more efficient than others. As the clock counts down on climate change it makes sense to find and utilise the most effective plants.   

The carbon plants pull is stored in the leaves, stems and roots. A good amount makes its way into the soil.
 

 Why is Vetiver highly regarded for carbon sequestration?
 

1) Vetiver is a long living plant so it can sequester and store carbon for the long term. Records show Vetiver living over 200 years but is now thought to be perpetual.

2) Underground carbon storage85% of Vetivers bio matter is underground. This means that Vetiver stores carbon in the soil and in the massive root system deep in the soil, 4-6 metres deep.  If the plants dies for any reason most of the carbon is stored securely.  It is the natural habit of every Vetiver plant to send its massive roots system straight down (not out like other grasses).  The photo lower on this page demostrates the bulk of biomass associated with a mature Vetiver plant.  Vetiver can be considered a true carbon sink.

3) Vetiver has an active rhizosphere.  This is a link allowing efficient carbon storage in the soil. See below for more information.

4) Warm climate compatible. As the earth warms and the carbon level rises our remediation plants have to be compatible. Vetiver is a tropical plant and prefers temperatures from 10 – 50 degrees celsius. In an extreme drought event Vetiver may be the last plant standing. Concern has been raised for temperate NZ native plants and trees. A relatively small increase in temperature will cause them harm.

5) More plants per area. Being a grass Vetiver physiologically allows more plants per area. Growing to 700mm wide at the base and 1.5 metres above the ground it can be planted very close together and in a very wide range of situations (including cities, back yards, farms, everywhere).

6) Vetiver is easy to grow. Using certified stock plants, it is normal to expect zero losses after planting.   

7) Vetiver grows quickly.  A Vetiver plant is considered established after the first growing season (6 months). A large tree may take decades to grow (we do not have decades).  

8) Vetiver has zero weed potential.  No reproductive method at all. No flowers, seeds, rhizomes or suckers. Vetiver has no known pests or diseases.  

9) Wild fire proof. Vetiver will completely re-grow after being burnt to the ground (I hope this quality is not required).

10) Low maintenance. Vetiver is very robust and will grow without maintenance but prefers a trim to 500mm high and a sprinkle of blood and bone fertilizer every year (or three) only in the spring.

 

The question is “If we planted enough plants could we stop gobal warming”?  The widely accepted and amazingly positive answer is “YES”. If we work as a team, plant enough of the correct plants, continue to reduce emissions and act with urgency we can stop and possibly reverse climate change.  

 
 

Vetiver Rhizosphere


The area of soil surrounding the plant roots is a mini ecosystem known as the rhizosphere.

Many of the bacteria, fungi and microbes including mycorrhizal fungi live there. Whilst not all soil types and situations can be studied, research shows that the Vetiver rhizosphere is very active. This is a key link alowing the sequestered carbon to move from the plants roots to the soil.  A mature Vetiver plant has roots 4-6 metres deep. A secure depth for this process to take place.   

A strong rhizosphere helps to nourish both the Vetiver plant and neighbouring crops. Plants growing in the vicinity of Vetiver often demonstrate luxuriant growth. Vetiver does not tend to act like a weed as much of its water and nutrient requirements are coming from deep in the soil. A strong rhizoshere also helps to build soil structure, assist with toxin remediation and protect the plant from drought and other stressors. 

The symbiotic cycle associated with mycorrhizae and the rhizosphere are – The host plant sequesters carbon, the nutrition supplies energy for the rhizosphere and photosynthesis and in turn the rhizosphere supplies the plant with water and nutrients.

 

Can trees cause global warming?


In short- Living trees are good. Dead trees are bad. As trees are burnt, harvested/milled/removed/pruned or rot the carbon is released. Recent reports show the Amazon forest is at times producing more carbon than sequestering because of land clearing activity. In New Zealand short sighted government policy like the Emissions trading scheme (ETS)see economic incentives for planting pine trees. It is not just that the carbon is released at harvest through soil exposure and processing, it is also that we are selling the fertility of our land, we are heavily acidifying the soil, during harvest and planting the exposed earth is not being managed correctly so the erosion and sediment create pollution way beyond the boundaries of the forest, no one is addressing the carbon used in harvest and delivery.  Plus Pinus Radiata generally has a shallow root system, not considered to be a good carbon sink. It is supposed to be the NZ governments biggest green policy when infact It should be called the Omissions trading scheme.

Thoughtful trees  

Environmentally planting any plant thoughtfully will help. The range of effectiveness varies greatly. What can we all do in our own back yard? I have nothing against well planned trees. Well planned because if the tree later requires removal all its carbon sequestering benifits are lost. Before planting a tree ask yourself- Will this tree take up too much space. Will it fit my total landscape plan. Will it end up consuming my view/light. For carbon sequesting purposes- Will it establish quickly. Is it a long living, deep rooting tree. Is it an evergreen that can actively sequester carbon year round?

The vast majority of plants on earth are small, they have a root system up to 50 cm deep. Whilst these small plants sequester carbon, they may not be considered a carbon sink as the roots are too close to the surface allowing the carbon to cycle through the life and death of the plant.  

It would be great if a NZ native plant had similar qualities to Vetiver grass. Generally, our temperate natives are not suited to a warming climate. The native deemed the most appropriate for this purpose is the NZ Totara tree. Totara is a long living tree, it has a deep root system and is likely to handle a warmer climate.

The root cause


A key difference between Vetiver and a tree is that 85% of a Vetiver plants bio mass is deep underground.  Vetiver stores carbon 4-6 metres deep in both the soil and within a very long living plant.  Much of a trees carbon storage is above ground making it vulnerable to milling, fire, rotting.  What we really require is plants with massive underground bio mass so carbon can be transported to a secure location.

 Lets say you have just 15 square metres available to plant something.  You could plant 1 or 2 trees or 100 Vetiver plants.  Optionally you could use the Vetiver as your ground cover and also plant slender trees or palms in the same area.

 Planting plants may be the biggest thing we can all do to help the planet. We need to be conscious of our planting decisions because it matters now.

Farms and cities are carbon producing epicentres. Farm animals, food production, cars, commerce and homes are the source. Are we going to change?  Are we? What can we do now?

At least we can plant Vetiver grass. Vetiver grows quickly. Vetiver fits around farms and cities perfectly. It requires little planning and is easily maintained.  

 Whilst Vetiver is valuable for carbon sequestration by itself, it could also offer double or multipurpose solutions at the same time.  Solutions for erosion, pollution, flood mitigation, hedging or landscaping plus a whole range of permaculture and farming uses all viewable on this website https://www.vetiversystems.co.nz/groundwater/

Vetiver will grow in most soils. From nothing but water through to nothing but dry sand (some establishment care may be required).  All Vetiver requires is sun. At least 4 hours of direct sun per day (if the sun was out all day). Vetiver is considered easy to grow. Vetiver will grow well in most areas of NZ north of Nelson, including all of the North Island. The Vetiver planting season in New Zealand is strictly from September until March.

At Vetiver Systems we realize that the act of exposing soil whilst digging can release carbon. This is one of the reasons why we developed the bio bag planting method. Using a Rapid Planter tool attached to a rechargeable drill, simply drill a small 7.5 cm wide hole and push the plant in with the bag on.  This allows minimal soil exposure while making the process easier, some even consider it fun.   

Humanity is not acting with urgency. Experts agree that it is what we do this decade that decides whether the earth has a future or not. If a comet was hurtling towards earth, we would do whatever it takes to stop it. Just because climate change is a slightly slower comet, we seem to be quite relaxed. Perhaps the job just seems too big? Whilst sorting your recycling helps, it is not enough. What is your climate change plan?  Researching the subject is a great place to start.

Contact us


Please email or phone for a chat, I will double check your situation and confirm that Vetiver is correct for you. Vetiver roots grow quickly. For larger orders we grow to order and supply the plants at the correct stage. Vetiver plants remain at a low cost. For more information or to place an order please contact us today.

Graydon Bell   

 Ph 021 2051387

Email info@vetiversystems.co.nz