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Root morphology and effects on soil reinforcement and slope stability of young vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) plants grown in semi-arid climate

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Abstract

Currently used in many countries in the world, vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) applications include soil and water conservation systems in agricultural environment, slope stabilization, mine rehabilitation, contaminated soil and saline land remediation, as well as wastewater treatment. The root system morphology of vetiver was investigated in a small plantation growing on abandoned marl terraces in southern Spain. Root distribution with depth, laterally from the plant, as well as root parameters such as root diameter and tensile strength were also investigated. The profile wall method combined with the block excavation showed that the vetiver grass grows numerous positively gravitropic roots of more or less uniform diameter. These were generally distributed in the uppermost soil horizon closer to the culm base. In situ shear test on blocks of soil permeated with vetiver roots were carried out and showed a greater shear strength resistance than the samples of non vegetated soil. The root reinforcement measured in situ was comparable to the one predicted by the perpendicular root reinforcement model. The stability of a modelled terraced slope planted with vetiver was marginally greater than the one of a non-vegetated slope. A local instability on one terrace can have a detrimental effect on the overall stability of the terraced slope.

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Acknowledgements

The work on this paper was funded under the framework of the ECOSLOPES project (EU, 9 QLK5—2001-00289). Planting material was kindly provided by Mike Pease, the European and Mediterranean Vetiver Network Coordinator. The help and suggestions of Dr P Truong are also kindly acknowledged.

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Correspondence to S. B. Mickovski.

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Responsible Editor: Alexia Stokes.

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Mickovski, S.B., van Beek, L.P.H. Root morphology and effects on soil reinforcement and slope stability of young vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) plants grown in semi-arid climate. Plant Soil 324, 43–56 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-009-0130-y

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