Vetiver & Biofuel


On the 27th of August 2009, 150 years have gone by since the beginning of the oil era. Given the great availability and low costs, oil has given to its producers an enormous power which concerns avery aspect of occidental living and more.
With it, fertilizers are produced and with those supermarkets are kept open and people fed, medicinals, mobility, lubricants and on the top shelf energy, which allows the cold chain, food conservation and tap water. In other words has detached the human being from natural competition in its environment.
Whichever opinion is reported by the media, studies in depth of the matter have shown that the peak of the oil production has been, or is about to be reached.
The world as a whole burns daily some 85 million barrels of oil, given the barrel 200L and future trends leave little doubt: the sooner we kill the dependence from the drug, the better off we may end up as a whole, point is: how much of our lifestile will be able to mantain in the transition?

One Thursday, as usual I bought the Nòva 24 paper and I found myself smiling reading an interesting article concerning the danish Novozymes company: whithin 6 monts it will start the commercial distribution of a new product, made up by a combination of enzymes which promises good savings in the production of biofuels starting from cellulose: actually starting from agricultural scrap (third generation).
This solution allows to definetely detach the production of biofuel from edible goods which (besides ethical concern) has in the past affected the price of alimetary goods, especially in the south of the world.
In past times, I pointed at this type of solution (which is not a novelty), but this biotechnological application promises huge savings on the actual industrial process.
I'll take a furter step in suggesting a combination of applications that can be put into place at any scale level: to produce biomass starting from wastewater using vetiver plants:
It is of public domain the capability of the vetiver plant to live and thrive in swampy areas; quickly absorbing great quantities of N P and K, heavy metals, Hydrocarbons, etc. in the biomass above and below the terrain; notorious are also the applications on wastewater depuration which involve the use of Reed Beds: low cost systems which allow the transit of wastewater and its depuration, or floating pontoons sat on lagooning ponds.
Allora mi domando: perchè non combinare le due cose?
dovunque esistono acque di scarto diventa automaticamente interessante la produzione di biiomasse: bacini di lagunaggio, impianti di depurazione, fognature consortili e comunali; le industrie inquinanti, tutti avranno la possibilità di riconsegnare acque pulite all'ambiente e guadagnare molti soldi laddove in bilancio erano previsti alti costi: tutto ciò è talmente ovvio che immagino sarà inevitabile.
Speriamo bene!
Then the question I ask is the following: a huge mass of wastewater needs to be recycled and can be used as growing media, a great mass of biomass is derived from this action and can be converted in biofuel.
Why not combine the two issues?
The economic result of this combination presents an interesting potential for all councils, industries, land owners: when water will be paid by the liter and the fuel will rise again at an unsustainable rate, I'm sure that this will be then considered a very interesting idea.

Vetiver and mass production, second update


As promised here goes the third update regarding the
in vitro (Tissue Culture) of vetiver plants.
For the benefit of who hasn't followed the ongoing study
so far, here is a quick resume:
One of the most formidable obstacles to the spreading of the
Vetiver System, is not so much the price of the live material
used to bring to safety the territory, which is higly competitive
with other solutions (rigid structures) but more the high cost
of the skilled and non skilled workers needed to physically
plant the hedgerows and the availability of the material itself.
Say for example the energetic application: biofuels and
thermic power generation: if we imagine an hectare of plants
we will have to think to 100m rows by 200 rows, 50 cm space
between them 30 cm between plants: that makes a single
row 20 Km long formed by almost 67000 single plants.
If a single person can plant daily 1500 common nursery plants,
the need for workers goes up to 44 days/man/Ha.
The costs of this option are NOT SUSTAINABLE.
Furthermore, the average nursery plant does not have a
standard dimension and it is very difficult to mechanize
its planting.
This are the reasons that convinced me to find a professional
partner to produce high numbers of standard plants
suitable to mechanization to cut labour costs to a tenth
and reduce considerably the cost of the live material itself.

And here are the results so far obtained:
the head researcher of the production lab has confirmed that
the in vitro growth proceeds with a surprising rithm and
in little time we will be able to transfer a first lot of live
material in the greenhouse to harden: probably within July
a first consignment of 100 - 200 plants will be transferred in
Sardinia to be devised in the field. At this point it will be easy
to follow the growing speed and to document it.

More to follow.

Vetiver System - part 1


It has been a while since the last time that I recapped the
properties of the vetiver plant and the applications of the
Vetiver System, this goes especially towards those who
tuned on this interesting world, only recently.
One of the distinctive properties of the vetiver plant is
the root system: it is infact of massive proportions and
it developes only vertically; the incredible number of single
roots that developes are extremely fine: the average
thickness of the single root is measurable between 0,2
and 2 mm and the depth that this root system can reach
is up to 5 - 9 m. A good point to this particular type of
root is that it penetrates the soil strata wrapping the
obstacles and filling the gaps not causing any tension
or stresses to the subsoil, thoug not causing any movement
that can result in rock fall or instability of the overall slope.
The depth reached, also, is the main cause of the plant
survival in the dry period; infact humidity is always present
in the deeper strata of the soil.
The verticality of the developement also implies that the
competition for nourishment and moisture is simply not
present and does not regard adjacent crops or native
essences.
The proven sterility of the vetiver (Monto or sunshine var.)
make sure that it can be introduced in any environment
without any risk of genetic pollution.
The physiology of such plant is applied in the Vetiver System
with the aim to bring to stability almost any slope at risk
applying some simple rules: we need to create barriers
so it is important to allign the plants when planting, in
such way to obtain quickly formed hedges.
The plants will have then a density of 7 - 10 plants in the
meter. The hedges will have to be lied on the contour
in such way not to offer to rainwater any possibility of
finding an escape.
The result will be that water will penetrate in the subsoil
along each hedgerow and there will be no more sediment
flowing or erosion to modify the slope.
In a few monts then, when the plants can be considered
fully grown and the hedgerows well formed, we can assume
that the risk of instability is considerably reduced (up to 40%
increase of the shear strenght factor) thanks to the gripping
action of the root system, and above soil, a very efficient trap
eliminates any sediment flow.
The prevention of diffused erosion is furthermore the first
step towards a new type of agriculture, made of ecological
understanding and profit together, that prevents loss of
soil and fertility, pollution of watertable and food chains.
The slope then is transformed: no more only a risk, but
a safe factor that can be used to bring advantages:
the hedgerows infact infiltrate the rainwaters which are
naturally stored in the deep layers; all this water, subtracted
to a potentially destructive action in its waterways when
rains become exceptional, can be recovered in the acquifer
furter down the track, and in places like Capoterra, in
Sardinia (9 dead this year, two more in year 2000), this
application might sure be appreciated.
More to follow.......

Photo courtesy of The Vetiver Network International

Vetiver Multiplication, a word of advice.


The conduction of the vetiver nursery, makes arise some necessities: the first is to obtain good quality live material free from weeds and runners, the second is to have compact plants, easy to cut and uniform all the way through.
Vetiver grows through basal buds, its growth starts from the formation of the gems around the outer ring of the planted material.
Planting vetiver material,  the main concern will have to regard the dimensions of the live material: when the number of tillers is too great, problems will arise in a second moment. Especially if the planting operation is conducted in the winter time.
The live material will pass its energy to the root system favouring the formation of a deep root system that will give indipendance to the plant in the dry season.
After that, it will die.
This energy, also, will give in the spring time a new breed of basal buds around the outer ring of the material planted in the first place.
Within a couple of years, the dead material at the center of the plant will rot and if the live material was too big in the first place, the plant will be empty at its center and runners will colonize it. In the long run other essences will shade the plant and this will die.
Therefore: it is a good rule of thumb not to transplant direcly big clumps but always divide them in 3-5 tiller propagations which will grow well even if transplanted in the winter time, avoiding then to have an empty plant like the one in the picture above.

Recycling water "Own Means"



The place where my vetiver plants grow  is virtually surrounded 
by farms and farmers that, despite any legislation on  
the disposal of nitrates, dispose of the wastewater simply discharging it in 
holes in the ground, or better in ditches. 
Given that here the irrigation water costs 150€ for 45 days 
by the single hydrant (as a result of an effective 
privatization action conducted in recent years 
in a bipartisan fashion by any government and 
by each regional authority), I have decided to proceed 
as usual with "Own Means" to dispose of some pollution 
that ends up at sea (very close to the land in question) and save 
some money which, these days, for sure, will find better use elsewere.
 
The ditch bottom  retains a good 50 cm of water 
(for a flaw of execution) until at least July, 
I therefore devised a two stages system, able to filter the suspended solids. 
The first stage consists of a gravel filter contained within a 
concrete pipe that sat abandoned for years in the nearby field;
a submerged pump draws the water through the gravel which, this way is kept free of algae and 
mucilages present in industrial quantities, 
thus denouncing the strong presence of nitrates and phosphates. 
The second stage is built with a modified pump pressure aid  with 
two check valves, a couple of fittings, and filled with quartzite to operate 
a more accurate sand filtration of water. 
The chemical quality of water of course does not change, 
the plants take advantage of the nourishment excess 
and the excess of such irrigation is released in the watertable after 
a vertical filtering operated by the plant itself.
A double goal is so achieved: intercept pollution and save money.
Not just a pretty face....

Single Tiller: More propagation methods


The practice of burning, misused in the last decades, is useful in 
small omeopatic doses to help with the preparation of new areas to cultivate
or to experiment with new techniques (this is the case). 
If done on a large scale it results in deforestation and has certainly negative 
ethical connotations, but sometimes the old Neolithic cultural wisdom is definitely practical! 
Here's the idea: I'll try out the Thai technique of multiplication in order  
to obtain strips of plants, ready for planting in unstable slopes that require 
the standard density of 10 plants per meter. 
Using a draining nursery liner,
I shall escavate a 20 cm deep and 2 meters long depression to be lined  (the length will be variable) 
This space will be filled with 60% peat, sand 39%, slow release fert 1%. 
The single tillers are generally a byproduct of plant division, they will be prepared as in the photo above 
and placed in the bed every 10 cm, each planted line will be divided by the next with wood.  
A dripping line will be  placed along each row to ensure that the cloth does not produce 
excessive dehydration due to the separation from subsoil and consequent elimination of the 
capillarity effect. 
Furthermore, with burning I've also easily gained a place to put a 1000L tank for fertirrigation. 
In the coming days we will see the progress of the work. 
More to follow

Biomasses, Shell Believes in it!


Over the past 5 years Shell has invested 1.7 billion dollars in 
renewables, and specifically not in wind power or solar, but 
in biomasses in order to find a viable alternative to oil and
continue to produce fuel for internal combustion engines. 
I drawn this information from a short article appeared on Wednesday 18 March 
on the Corriere della Sera (the major italian paper). 
I quote: 
"More specifically looks at alternative fuels to petrol, 
second generation fuels derived from biomasses, ie 
cellulose and non-cereals. It will have to mean something! " 
I do not love Shell or the world they represent, it must be 
noted that where they invest their money, probably, that will be 
the most likely future field of development.

Vetiver and mass production: Update


Today I received the periodic update about the in-vitro propagation protocol of vetiver: 
here's the news: there were no major problems with bacterial or virus contaminations 
and only in one case 
a re-sterilization was necessary, the buds extracted started to grow and 
perhaps a month  the  proliferation phase will begin, followed by the greenhouse hardening of the first plants. 
Soon a first batch of plantlets Will be produced  in order to perform a field pilot test, 
maybe at the end of spring. 
Perhaps then, at the end of summer we will have obtained some genuine data on this promising chapter.
Many thanks to Romano and all the people involved.

Giulio Tramellino Prize, 2nd edition

It has come to an end the 2nd annual prize "Giulio Tramellino" that sees 100 plants ready to transplant for the best idea / project amongst the readers.
This year the winning project sees a dinamic couple that will fix up a slope and in a second moment will set up a biomass production and nursery for plant sale.

Biomass transformation in energy will be performed with the pyrolitic process or with the Steam Explosion .
This will be the first biomass plant in Italy to work with vetiver biomasses.

Many congratulations to the winners...!

Controlled Production

A simple way to produce plants in little space, out of the ground and starting from single shots, it is that one that uses pvc drain pipes, allready showed in a past post.
The expense is not extremely low, but the materials can be reused many times.
In the following shots, I show all the constructing details. Please note the green bottom and the wire that embraces it, it is used to recall the rootmass and the soil included into the pipe and to ease the extraction directly into the furrow.
The operation is needed to start from single shots, avoiding that, if planted in open beds, the vegetation covers them and chokes them.
The pipes 
are set in the winter and the furrow planting will be at the end of the summer



Hydrogeology, more emergencies are ready to start

Nearby Acquappesa, Cosenza province, half way between Paola and Diamante, another disaster is ready to take place: signals are clear and a geologist's video denounces it in advance, just to make clear that the local authorities will do nothing to prevent it.




In the mean time between Rometta and Rometta Marea, an entire section of the Provinciale 56
has collapsed following heavy rains, the amount of the damage is of many million €, in a while we'll be spectators to the usual phenomena of the responsability search, while emergency funding will put everyone together.





Meanwhile, not even the dead is safe in the last journey, nearby Fagnano Castello, still in Calabria 
region, the local cemetery has badly collapsed with the entire slope.


Compromised Hydrogeology

The process of desgregatio of the italian territory seems unstoppable:
in the past two monts we've had:
9 dead in the Cagliari area
3 dead in Calabria
5 dead in Sicily
It is diffused opinion that the funding for preventing emergencies is unsufficient, whilst emergency funding is widely available.
More than other ignorance is widely diffused: there are methods that involve a low level funding and a high result.
Emergency funding, in Italy, have the peculiarity to be available readily and without too many questions, yet again, local authorities are not capable to provide for themselves.






SEASON'S GREETINGS TO THE DECISOR!




If anyone missed out on this one, I'd like to relay it: on the news, in the past days, a watercourse happended to become suddenly a river, it seems to happen quite often lately. This time it claimed three lives.
I'd like to underline, as the video clearly shows, that this has happened for the ignorance of the minimum basic safety rules concerning hydrogeological scenario, the total ignorance of bio-ingegneristic methods that save money and lives, costing only a fraction of the cement that is also prone to be washed away by the force of the waters, all this in the complete impunity of who is called to operate decisions who affect people's lives not knowing or worse, knowing and not caring.
Merry Christmas!

MALA TEMPORA!


All it takes it's an half hour storm, that's enough to put at risk people and property, nowadays. It can all be washed away by a little drain that becomes river in a second.
This is what happened recently in Sardinia, five lives drowned by the flood caused by insufficient drainage capacity of the catchment and by foolish cementing of an area at risk.
Afterwards the usual lamenting of the survivor and the damage count.

In the photos, the destructive potential of an innocent watercourse when 100mm of rain fall in half an hour.
It happened behind my house, in Cugnana, next to Olbia: the river has destroyed the IMHOFF septic tank and stormed into the house, pushing its content throughout the floor up to 50cm. About 30,000€ damage.
Fortunately no one got hurt this time.
More shots of the same happening.

ROWBAGS


One day in September, a few years ago, I needed to move 
a few clumps of vetiver from the nursery to another location;
I couldn't finish the work in the immediate so I abandoned
the clumps in the parking area.
A couple of weeks later, when I put hands in the matter
again, to my great amazement, I wasn't able to pull the 
clumps from the ground because those had stricken roots
in the mean time and formed a solid block with the
compacted ground.

Today I review that incident with the certainty that I found
the keystone to introduce vetiver hedgerows to the public
authorities who act to safeguard the hydrogeological stability
in the interest of local inhabitants at any level.

Here is the Idea:
Let's take a common jute bag used to produce the typical 
sandbag, let's fill it with sand a little slow release nitrogen 
fertilizer, make a few holes along its long axis and place
in it a row of bare root vetiver propagations.

In no time the plants will strike roots which will escape the
jute bag from the bottom (for this it is advisable to place
them on concrete or plastic).
They can easily be produced in nurseries at any latitude.
In the production period, it would be best to keep low the
aerial part and often prune the roots in order to promote
new tillers and new root growth.
Drip irrigation in hot weather would be needed.
When ready, the bags, can simply be alligned on the ground
on contour lines, along their long axis, to form the much
debated hedgerows without moving a single stone or plough a single centimeter of land.

Total planting cost: ZERO

This rowbags can also be placed on top of other common 
sandbag walls or barriers forming in little time some strong
levee banks at very little cost and effort.

All the rest, given the instrument, is a bio-engineeristic task
for a specialistic team to design; here some examples:
- embankments set in order to favour the formation of 
sand barriers in rivers at risk,
- active defenses to slow down and direct the flow of 
floodwaters,
- immediate action (but built to stay)to spread heavy rainfall
in the catchment and prevent flashflood.

With a little fantasy anyone can imagine the huge potential
of this idea, or not?
And many thanks to Nicola for his giving graphic shape to 
my thinking.

ETHIC CODE OF CONDUCT

With this document, I intend to clarify the
intentions that move the work of Vetiver
Sardegna.
In the past 20 years, in Italy, the technology linked
to the use of vetiver hedgerows has been
used by few people that used it up for personal
gain only, not spreding the knoledge of it nor
giving out propagation material.

On the contrary, Vetiver Sardegna operates
for the capillary diffusion of the technology
through mass communication (web) with
the clear intent of making aware of the great
simplicity of application to everyone, and the
production of propagating material to the
lowest possible price with the aim to heal
the territory in a definitive way in order to 
prevent possible disasters in harm to people.

The research conducted by Vetiver Sardegna,
at the present without any funding at all, goes
in the direction of constantly improve, and 
progressively make more accessible, the use
of this technology to private citizens on their
land and public offices, through the use of local
labour to generate a further benefit to the area
of application.
This logic, goes further than simple economic gain,
though necessary, and puts back in the end user's
pocket, any saving obtaind by the research on 
production and planting methods, for the final
aim of spreding the same technology at any level
in the country.
Vetiver Sardegna's work is inspired to an "Open Source" 
model and by the consciousness of multiple benefits 
that the territory receives by it and by the quantity
of human lives that can be saved through the correct 
application of VGT technology.The implementation 
of mass scale economies, is the medium through which,
in the future, it will be impossible and non economical, 
a new kidnapping of this technology for private gain.

Marco Forti



Vetiver and mass production


In order to shoot dead all the obstacles that can arise and the difficulties to the spreading of the Vetiver technology, and in order to make more accessible to everyone and more competitive the hedgerow system, from today, vetiver Sardegna has begun a new path of studies: the in vitro production.
The final aim is to reduce as much as possible the cost of the single plant and uniform all propagation material to a standard that makes easy the use of mechanized planting.
With this method we will obtain to reduce the main economic obstacle to the spreading of the vetiver system: the cost of labour and propagation material.
Next season will be used to asses the costs and devise a method to mechanize the planting of hedgerows, plus a comparison with other methods of environmental protection.
Yesterday, 5th of November I have signed a preliminary agreement with one of the biggest nursery production sites; their work is mainly in the fruit tree production, I have found some very good allies, in love with their work and their mission, that will make possible this great project to come true.
Next spring, after a preliminary  period of  study of the material, we will asses together how beneficial this method will be to our work.

Vetiver: production cost control

In order to speed up the production process in open air conditions, I've come up with an interesting solution to cut down maintenance and fuel costs relative to the first period of establishment of the new plants: 
In my opinion, the best moment to set out with a new nursery is winter: the new plants work below the field and develope new roots that sink deep in the soil in order to resist and thrive
 in the next hot season, guaranteeing moisture and growing potential to the recently planted rows. Than the spring comes and together with it, rains and mild temperatures that give the go to all the field vegetation, including graminae weeds which tend to choke the new vetiver plantlets.
In the summer period the graminae flower and die down, while the vetiver strikes new tillers from the base of the plants and mantains its green colour throughout the season until the following winter.
If the plants set out in the winter period do not have a sufficient number of tillers to start with, they will not have the strenght to overcome the weeds in their first period of life in the field and they will need several seasons to reach the point in which the graminae in the field will be shaded out and pull back from the vetiver base.
BUT, if the first growing period is conducted under controlled conditions, away from the agricultural site, the first developement will not be stunted by the weeds
 in the following spring period and if the final row planting in open field happens in a second moment, when the spring boom is allready finished and the graminae are allready dying down, we will achieve the following results:

- we can produce much more plants starting from tillers instead of planting material of 3-5 tillers,
- we speed up the growth of the new plants by controlling easily their developing
 environment,
- we save a lot in fuels and labour by not having to free  the nurseries from weeds,
- we speed up the following planting in open field.
Naturally, since plants do not sink their roots directly in the field in the winter period, the new rows, set out at the beginning of summer, will not sustain the heat and
 thrive through the growing cycle.Will then be necessary provide the new rows with drip lines.
This is how to produce vetiver plants from single tiller instead than 3-5 tillers planting material, cutting on labour and fuel costs:
- In a pvc pipe 120-125 mm diameter, we remove some three cm of it through its length with the help of a circular saw 
- we place lids at both ends of the opened pipe
- we place a u shaped metal wire, connected to a metal plate sitting next to a lid, inside the pipe to ease the extraction of the grown plants from the pipe,
- we fill the pipe with soil, sand and slow release nitrogen fertilizer
- we insert a flat drip line in the pipe.
When we are ready to set the plants in open field, after we have prepared the planting site and did a 30 cm deep furrow, we remove the lids and we extract the plants directly into the planting line pulling both the pipe and the metal wire in opposite directions.
We close than the furrow with spare soil using a hoe and set a drip line all along the newly planted row.
The pipes and the wires can be reused a number of times and there is no waste of non recyclable materials.
Another advantage is that we concentrate a very large amount of new plants in small confined, controlled spaces.



Vetiver Sardegna, new site

It's now on.line the new site for Vetiver Sardegna
Contents will start to be added within a little while.
At the moment the hoe sets the pace.
Suggestions and comments are as usual most wellcome.


Biofuel news

On the Sole24 Ore an interesting article has appeared last week:
It concerned new methods of transforming biomasses in 2nd generation biofuels therefore from non edible biomasses.
This the content: a new high efficiency industrial method has been devised by Wisconsin-Madison University to transform cellulose molecules in biofuels using a new concept cathalist: the platinum-rhenium.
With successive reactions, different biofuels can be obtained: gasoline, diesel, jet fuel.
After the Sole24 Ore, also the Espresso spoke about it.

Emission Impossible

The Sole 24 Ore, yesterday Thursday 25th of September 2008, in the Nòva publication with the paper, a pearl of the editorial arena, had on the front page an interesting article: Guido Romeo wrote about the state of the art in the main fields of renewables: wind generation, solar, and geothermic: even though this are not my fields of election, some deep concepts caught my attention:

"Eco compatibility is the occasion to develope an Eco Design intended in a wide way, like a new economic sector, more dinamic and competitive because less dipendent by traditional production factors(...) intelligent webs of productive systems are capable to use one another's waste to thrive, and this thanks to research."

This is the most encouraging thing I've heard by an economist in a long while...and again:

" This is the philosophy of the ZERI (Zero Emission Research and Initiative), a network launched in 1994 by the economist Gunther Pauli, that has promoted many projects especially in the south of the world.(...) At Turin's Politecnico University, are active some Design masters which share the ZERI's principles in order to have architects and engineers growing into it.
Fritjof Capra, founder of the Center for ecoliteracy at Berkeley, California: "The applications of what I call Leonardo's eco design are extremely vast because are based on the comprehension of natural phenomena "
Capra states the necessity of facing the energetic issue and the environmental problem in an integrated way looking at the earth system as a whole, just like Leonardo would have done, but applying the most advanced technologies and knoledges of our time.
Of course, if the legislator would take note of this thoughts, our work would be greatly helped...




Vetiver biomass: second milling test



This second test was conducted with a forage mill:
as obvious, the machine is too small to chop large
quantities of biomass, but was the only one of
that kind available at the time; there are much
bigger ones. What really counts is that the chopping
is performed on the horizontal axis as compared
to the insertion direction of the biomass.

This fact guarantees a much stronger coherence
if compared to the previous test.

The result was much more satisfactory than the
previous one; next year I'll chop a large quantity 
of leaves and stems with a much larger mill. also 
the timing of the operation will be an interesting 
data to account for.


Vetiver biomass: milling test


First milling test performed in order to obtain 
heater grade chopped biomass:
Just about 30 Kg of biomass have been transformed.
The objective is to find a tool (power or engine) that chops 
leaves and stems down to the correct size for burning in an 
automatic biomass heater.
The point is, besides the size, that the product has to be 
coherent.
No further operations will have to be needed afterwards to 
preserve economicity.

The result of this first test is not completely satisfactory 
because the product presents different sizes. To achieve 
a better result, sieving is necessary in order to discard 
oversize material.

The problem starts with the machine's work: the chopping 
is done on the same axis of insertion of the biomass: this 
makes also the machine prone to choking. The final product 
is part pulverized, part oversize.

Let's move over.


Biomass Calculation



I consider concluded the drying period of the biomasses obtained from the first cut performed at mid July. The total weight of all the biomass cut in the three test sites sums up to Kg 15.

The total length of the hedgerows considered for the tests are in their second year vegetation, are conducted with no irrigation or fertilization and were cut at 30 cm height, the total length of these rows  was  6m.

Therefore the weight per meter of dry mass is 2,5 Kg.

If we apply this data on an hectare consisting of 200 rows, spaced 50cm 
and 100m long the total weight per hectare of the
dry mass obtained is 50 Tonnes.

Infrastructure protection

Often happens that infrastructures like poles, water tanks silos, etc, sink in the soil, even the concrete base of heavy infrastructures can sink in sandy soils.
If the water tank slips sideways, it can be a costly hassle.
A very handy idea can be to insert SPINES where the need of stengthening arises.
These are derived from the flower stem of the vetiver plant. They form in the plants from the second year of vegetation.
Their original function is to guarantee the plants' survival when this is submerged by debris or soil accumulation along the hedgerows.
The nodes on the stem can alternatively generate new shots or roots depending on the humidity or light received by the node itself.
For practicity, spines are cut with a 45 degrees angle for signalling which is the top and which the bottom (otherwise they die) and to make easier the penetration in moist soil.
The best plantation time is certainly the winter time because the soil is permanently humid; no maintenance or irrigation is needed until spring.
At the end of spring, when the first shots appear, it will be necessary to cut back the weeds around the planting that can shade the tillers and choke them.
The time necessary to the establishment of this new plants is certainly longer than what's necessary to establish ordinary propagation material, but the cost per unit is one third and labour necessary for planting is irrelevant.

This could be a useful hint....



Giulio Tramellino Prize second edition


For the second year in a row starts the "Giulio Tramellino Prize"

I wish to remember him putting up for grabs 100 vetiver plants to be won by the best project in any field of application of this green technology that sees me at work, with the hoe in my hand, since 1996.
I want to make this system known in Italy so that everyone will be able to see how beneficial it can be for the environment and the whole of society.
Please leave a comment or send a mail, submitting photos, drawings or any written description of what the project aim is.

Closing date is on the 2nd of February 2009

Biomass for boilers


We're almost there:
the biomass cut during this summer has dried up, soon I'll drop in at tziu Piero's (sardinian honorific title for the elderly) to try out with him the grinder to be used with the tractor.
If the dimensions of the chopped biomass will be about 2 cm, than we'll have the ultimate fuel for biomass boilers.

Vetiver in India


Today I report the opinion expressed by Gopalkrishanan, indian blogger, self defined:"an ordinary Indian citizen, honest, aggressive, team builder, short-tempered, God-fearing man."

It is about vetiver's capability of storing rainwater in the terrain providing a useful reserve in post emergence phase of Ragi, a millet grown as a cereal in Gundlupet, Karnataka (cut and paste to google earth).

In his Blog, he tells that, where tea is grown, the land is hilly and terraces are contained by stone revetments and no other erosion control measure is used. Costs linked to this type of containment are about 3,5 times higher than vetiver hedge containment in terms of labour whilst VGT also provide beneficial side effects like erosion control and water storage in subsoil.
Benefits also extend to productivity in the ragi cultivation by rising it 15 to 50 % and safeguarding the first critical moment of post emergence, and producing a very effective and useful barrier against weeds competing for moisture and nourishment with crops.


Gopalkrishanan also tells that vetiver in India is considered untouchable and that the indian government requested information to the chinese rail authority about the plants' application to railsides, reimporting then the technology and applying it to Konkan Railways, even though it was first born right there in India...

It also happens elsewere!


I now would like to link here the others who look to spread this green technology like me, I just found this.
Let's hope to become many more soon.

Leachate in the groundwater




Chatting with a friend of this matter and browsing the available material of the Vetiver Network, I bumped into this PDF document that sums up the state of the art of the research and of the realizations so far existing in Australia, Thailand, China, etc.
Leachate is the "structural evil" tightly connected with the old practice of burying the garbage in landfills. It drags with it all the worst of our lifestyle: acids, hydrocarbs, solvants, ecc. It is formed in the rotten heart of landfills and when rains fill up the containment, it spills into our dishes as steaks, vegetables, pasta, ecc.
Many studies have been carried out on the theme, but structural prevention implies very high costs, not to talk about those landfills which are not authorized, uncontrolled put in place by people without a conscience..

If prevention is costly, the cure isn't.....

4WD Ferrari


A new giant leap (veeeery hard worked) is just been made:
The Ferrari is now supported by the Toyota and, finally I can plant vetiver hedgerows almost anywere with little effort.
The two machinery together make just about my age but with a little restoration I'm sure that I can do many things for a long time.
Now I'll paint it RED! Ferrari red!
Champagne!!!!!!!!!

Biomass, a month later.


I want to show you a shot of the plants I have chosen to assess the weight of the biomass in one growing season; it was taken the 12 of August, 25 days after the first cut. The entire nursery hasn't received a single liter of irrigation water or a minute of rain since spring, nor has received fertilization. It is thriving on groundwater probably at 5 or 6 meters depth, and on the condensation of night humidity that the leaves drive onto the crown.
Consider also that the cut was done with a good month delay on the start of the growing season...

Vetiver in a permaculture environment


I first met permaculture in 1990 in Australia; since then I often spoke about it, but never here nor in my vetiver activity context: today I would like to speak out about the contribution that vetiver can give to a type of agriculture as beautiful as the one imagined by Bill Mollison.

Permaculture needs huge quantities of mulch that often is contaminated with undesired seeds, somethimes we'll have to consider the use of sprays.
This mulch (often hay) is needed to cover the ground and protect it from the elements, and favour the developement of life underneath it.
given the durability of hay and its cost to buy or produce, havig to replace it becomes a bit of hassle that can easily be avoided.

The designs used in permaculture, often use vegetative hedges to promote the growth of precious crops: "suntraps" circular sections of windbreak open towards the sun are planted in order to maximize the available heat in the winter period. To apply vetiver hedgerows to this purpouse will generate free mulch (or energy) when the precious cultures do not need protection like the summer periods.

As known, vetiver mulch has an exceptional durability and resistance to rotting so to be often used for thatching. This can generate good savings of time, money, effort and fossil fuels for the permaculturist.

Still needs to be assessed if it is preferable to keep vetiver mulch as it is, or if a fine chopping is better.

Any contribution is wellcome.

Vetiver in California


Aesthetics and environmental good joined can well go together.
Dough Richardson paints landscapes with vegetation waves and stabilizes slopes and embankments at the same time.

Landscape architects of Italy, please take note......

New start for biomass


Just to keep you informed, I wish to show you the regrowth obtained in one week after the cut performed to weight the biomass.

L'orto di carta

Hallo all!
Today I wish to report a new friend in the list of interesting blogs: I'm talking about Nicola that calles himself a compulsive talker, maybe he's right but it looks like he also has brains to sell!
His interest is about Permaculture.
Enjoy!

BIOMASS: first cut weight calculation


After an entire month on antibiotics, finally I managed to start the long promised weight calculation of the biomass resulting from the vetiver hedgerows in the nursery.
This calculation has been conducted on non irrigated nor fertilized hedgerows cut at 30cm height.
Today's result has been obtained choosing three sections, each two meters long, far apart from each other to have the certainty of the maximum possible variety of the subsoil within the land's capabilities (acquifer depth, soil type, past cultivation's residues, etc.) averaging then the weights obtained.
The weighted biomasses (accurate to 100g) are only relative to the first cut, therefore the winter vegetation and the spring one relative to rows planted 14 monts ago, so only just adult.
The sites have been individuated in a precise way so that next cuts will only regard the single plants allready considered.
Here is the data:

site 1 - 6.5 Kg
site 2 - 7.7 Kg

site 3 - 9.8 Kg


AVERAGE 8 Kg

EACH METER Kg 4

If we imagine to have 100m long hedgerows 50cm apart, the total weight would be 80.000Kg/ha
of mixed biomass dry and green more or less at 50%

With non irrigated young plants......



Vetiver Sardegna grows up


Today's news are that Vetiver Sardegna has acquired in a 4 year rent contract a new land around Arzachena (OT) for a total of 4 hectares and soon the work will be started in order to plant the first vetiver hedgerows.
The first aim is to double the vetiver production within next spring.

Seeking basin lagoons



While trying to deepen my understanding of the vetiver potential to clean up wastewaters and at the same time to produce biomasses for the energy industry, I want to start a new course of studies which would imply the usage of one or more floating pontoons on any of the thousand lagoons existing in Italy, therefore I'm now seeking volounteers of any sort (private enterprises of public administrations willing to host these structures and follow them up, to cut the leaves and weight them in the growing season.

Anyone willing to contribute, can find me through the site Vetiver Sardegna or this blog.

Energy from biomasses

An interesting piece has showed up on "La Repubblica" tuersday 15th of April 2008:

A research conducted by the University of Massachussets, found a method to produce 2nd generation biofuels, starting from wood chips and agricultural waste using the quick pirolysis method.
At the moment agriculture using this method could contribute in Italy, with the waste it produces, with a total of 3,6 billion liters/year of biodiesel, standing a total need for Italy of about 40 billion/year. Even if we considered half of the fuel produced as energy needed by the industrial process, we still have a theoretical potential of 1,8 billion liters/year of biofuel which accounts for just about half the goal set by the EU, and this without using a single gram of anything may ever enter the human food chain, therefore without touching the economic balances of the third world (and ours too).
This research depicts agriculture's present state, but DOES NOT consider that biomasses can be produced free by phyto depurating wastewaters: If we only considered the use of "technical plants" for the treatment of sewage in at least half of the 8000 councils present in Italy, this final data of biofuel produced would certainly be reductive

Here is the article written by Antonio Cianciullo
The technology exists, now let's find the political will to apply it....

How mines are elsewere

Here goes an example of how in Australia, mining spoil is dealt with: this applies to bauxite, coal, gold and bentonite.
For the limits of tolerance of vetiver plants to acidity, alcalinity, salinity, heavy metals, etc, etc.. here are some interesting data.

Mining spoil treatment

In the south of Sardinia, as in many other places in the world, mining activity generates a fabulous quantity of spoil that, accumulating in time, forms huge piles dense with heavy metals and toxic elements. The combined action of water and wind, makes these substances enter the food chain.

Vetiver hedges are capable to withstand great concentrations of the polluting elements,
as this study shows, by reducing the volatility of it and erasing the leachate sinking in the ground waters.

A different matter is to plant this huge piles,
in Venezuela, for instance they do it like this.

A good chance

As often happens I relay ideas and paper articles that I happen to find about: here is a piece of the "Sole 24 ore" inserted in the Nòva section:
RENEWABLES PIVOTING THE III INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
In 2006 the investments in renewables, globally have reached 70,9 billion USD, increasing by 43% respect the previous year, and what about Italy?
With the arrival of "Industria 2015" something seems to move, but we are far away from being able to reach the goal set of 20% renewables by 2020.
Without an incentive politics open to all renewables, it will be tough; as usual we risk to sell top know how for projects to be done elsewere.

Rubia leads that path...

Water !!!!!!!!!

Water all around and not a drop to drink.
It sounds like a joke but it can become the sad truth for a lot of countries in the world.
Many more, instead will have the opposite problem: shortage of food and drinkable water.
In Italy both options are allready starting to appear together in areas historically devolved to food and energy productions; first of all the Po valley.
The first hints have allready appeared two years ago in spring, for example: corn shoots burnt, rivers below minimum levels, prices at the stars. The situation hits the population in two ways: directly with income loss and indirectly, by the markets that rise prices at any crisis announcement.
Recently in Cochin, Kerala, south India, an international workshop has taken place sponsored by the Vetiver Network International of India.
Amongst the issues treated, the water conservation one, was the most important one: it clearly emerged that the vetiver hedges favour the replenishment of ground water increasing the permanence of seasonal watercourses, they also increase water quantity in area basins and strongly inhibit silting in it.

This proceedings should spring careful thinking not only on the future of agriculture, but also on the real costs of energy since a good share of the little we produce has an hydroelectric origin.

Given the actual situation, are we really sure that hydroelectric production can be considered renewable?

Wastewater, new data

I had left half way the topic of wastewater carring high quantities of pollutin dissolved in it (Nitrates and phosphates).
I would like to pick it up again showing new data, more precise and useful in catering a rough idea on how to dimension the beds that dispose of this water rather than let it penetrate the water table.
Watts Bridge is a far away little community in Queensland, Australia, in there, a small avio field manages their wastewater in a reed bed vegetated with vetiver. Instead of pollute the soil, they produce biomasses.
The Vetiver Network International has helped designing the work.

Here are some numbers: the daily average inlet is 1670 liters the total length of the rows sums up to 80 meters for a total of 400 plants in 100 sq. meters.
The total Nitrogen measured at the inlet is 68 mg/l while at the end of the beds measures 0,095 mg/l
Phosphorus goes from 10,6 mg/l to 0,138 mg/l.

Dispersion wells, full tricameral tanks, careless empting of wastewaters, generate pollution in the watertable that in one way or another re enters the food chain.
Solving this problem does not necessarily have to be a cost; it can be transformed in a resource and generate income: I can't help thinking of bovine stables: they can reuse the wastewaters and lower the costs of their forage using the biomasses produced from vetiver reed beds into a feed base for their cattle, saving money used for producing equivalent weight of more costly forages.

A careful management with frequent cuts will also improve the strong taste that this forage has.

Looks like a clever idea to me.....

To see the work, have a look at this....

Cellulose, finally

The energy that the sun stores in the biomasses, has a huge potential: agricoltural residues and technical plants can partially fix the great crave for energy that modern living creates.
the most immediate way of extracting this energy is certainly the old way: burning.
To dry biomasses below a certain point presents less problems in comparison with other methods.
But, burning for heating poses clear questions about the origins of the fuel we use: even though the CO2 we inject in the atmosphere by burning was allready absorbed by the plants in the first place, other kinds of molecules can be present when the biomasses are derived from water treatment, soil decontamination, sanitary prevention in mining sites. The potentially dangerous chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals cannot be reintroduced in the air; therefore we have to be particularly cautious using biomasses derived from dangerous sites.
Biogas derived from the digestion of vetiver leaves, present other kinds of obstacles: I've noticed in my field work that cut leaves are tough to rot: they dry out and stay on the ground for a long time intact, even though this mulch is perfect, this indicates that the rotting process is slowed down by some substance present in the leaves, exactly what we did not need for biogas.
But Vetiver biomasses, are composed by 45,8% of cellulose, a carbohydrate that can be treated with low heat (about 40°C) and enzymes to produce alcohol with the simultaneous saccarification and fermentation method