"With exceptional insight, intelligence, and compassion, His Majesty has taken his natural gifts for the sciences and applied them directly to serve the people of the kingdom of Thailand. His numerous development projects have brought tangible results and lasting innovations not just to his subjects but to the world."

Vetiver grass

About the project

“…One should pay close attention to and observe individuals and objects around him, no matter how small they are. Wisdom arises through concentration even on something so trivial like grass. There are many kinds of grass plants – some are poisonous, whereas some are functional, such as “vetiver grass” which is potential for soil and water conservation. Its roots can go deep down in the earth boosting the capacity in absorbing water and preventing erosion. Also, the fact that it has a gregarious habit and grows in bunches can solve the problem of the loss of topsoil…”

His Majesty the King's remarks on the 24th of July 1997

The loss of topsoil and soil erosion is one of the country’s major problems leading to the deterioration of earth resource.  Recognizing how urgent and necessary it is to find measures to alleviate such problem, His Majesty the King initiated the use of vetiver grass for soil and water conservation, land rehabilitation, and embankment stabilization because its roots penetrates deep down into the soil at great depth. On the 22nd of June 1991, the King ordered the use of vetiver grass for soil conservation and water quality management to be investigated and experimented. Then the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board (RDPB) will coordinate with and monitor various agencies involved.
 

Project administration

The following part summarizes the results on vetiver experimentation conducted by various agencies.

  1. The fibrous root system of vetiver grass penetrates deep down into the soil at great depth and act as the natural erosion-control barrier. It has the ability to hold soil particles together preventing the loss of topsoil and trapping sediments from water runoff. Consequently, pilot experiments of planting vetiver grass were conducted in several Royal Development Study Centers.
  2. The trials were topographically categorized as follows:
  1. On steep-slope lands, vetiver hedgerows were planted along horizontal gradients and water channels to fight against soil erosion and absorb soil moisture.
  2. On flatlands, vetiver grass was planted in 3 different ways:
    • around planting beds
    • 1 or 2 rows of vetiver grass inside planting beds
    • interval with dry crops
  3. Around water reservoirs, vetiver lessens the accumulation of silt in irrigation and drainage canals and implements soil conservation.
  4. Above water reservoirs, vetiver hedgerows form a living barrier filtering toxic substances from flowing down and play an important role in the retention and decontamination of agro-chemicals.

During the entire procedure, the experimental sites were photographed to keep track of the accomplishment. Each agency place importance on and apply vetiver grass as an approach to solve the problem of soil erosion along the roadsides. There are also training courses aiming that the staff become familiar with vetiver grass and adopt techniques from the prior research to their working areas. These staff can easily apply such cost-effective natural methods to soil stabilization in Northern and Southern Thailand, landslides, and shoulders of driving tracks. Additionally, some highway districts reproduce vetiver grass by vegetative propagation for their future use.
 

Social benefits

The royal initiatives and contributions to utilize vetiver grass to prevent soil erosion were internationally recognized. On the 25th of February 1993, the International Erosion Control Association (IECA) presented the International Merit Award to His Majesty for assuming the exemplary role in the promotion of vetiver grass for soil and water conservation. The overall achievement from the experimentation and cultivation of vetiver grass in Thailand has been publicized worldwide. With agriculture being the backbone occupation in the Thai society, His Majesty understood the significant of the preservation and the fertility of natural resources. The King therefore aimed at mitigating soil erosion and environmental deterioration in the country in order to increase the happiness and well-being to his subjects.