Vetiver roots (Vetiveria zizanoides (L.) Nash, Poaceae.) are a major focus for the fragrance industry, as the essential oil they provide is a key ingredient for all perfumers. However, there is an important distinction to be made between the various origins and qualitites of vetiver oil, because Bourbon and Haitian oils have traditionally been the preferred grades, whilst the Indonesian product has always been characterized as second-rate, despite Indonesia being globally the largest volume producer.
Growing and harvesting vetiver is a very labor-intensive process, due to its deep, compact, aromatic, branched, fibrous root system. In Indonesia, after 12 months (or 15–18 months depending upon the conditions of cultivation) from planting the vetiver roots are ready to be harvested. Initially, the ground needs to be broken up in order to make the roots ready for hand harvesting. Yields per hectare are highly variable depending on the amounts of rainfall during the collecting season. Variations can be as much as 40% of the potential crop size (from 2.8–4.0 metric tonnes per hectare). By closely following the economics of vetiver cultivation, it has been found, however, that the variations in yield and cultivation costs are not the primary factor governing the price of the essential oil on the world market.
Planting of vetiver: In Java, the quality of vetiver oil has frequently been classified as burnt or smoky. This unwanted olfactory quality provided the impetus to perform extensive studies into the processes used to go from harvested roots to oil production. These studies have allowed the authors to obtain a greater understanding of the techniques used and explain the reasons for the distinctions in value among vetiver oil origins.