Making its debut, from Japan, at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, kudzu was introduced as both an ornamental plant and foraging crop. From the 1930’s to the 1950’s southern farmers were encouraged to plant this crop as a suitable solution to combat soil erosion.
It became so popular that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, a public works relief program, planted it widely across the United States. Not long after, kudzu took the country by storm, literally. This prompted the Department of Agriculture to deem this plant as a pest weed. This resulted in its removal from the list of permissible plants for coverage and later added to the Federal Noxious Weeds List.
It is not uncommon to see this plant covering over whole forest as you travel along southeastern interstates and roadways. These giant structures look more like prehistoric dinosaurs and mythical creatures than trees and stone structures that have succumb to its presence. Though they provide endless amusement for young children on long road trips, this weed has caused domestic industries, farmers and homeowners tons of grief as it creeps along state lines.
What Is Kudzu?
Kudzu is an invasive species of plant that grows rapidly with large leaves of green that sprout along the base of a central vine. While the plant favors areas with limited light and drought, it may adapt to other areas and thrive. Growing, on average, a foot per day, it can easily span the length of over 60 feet in a single growing season.
Kudzu can quickly overtake a yard once it’s been detected; killing grass, flowers and other plants in its wake. While the process may seem long to rid your yard of this pesky plant, you’ll be able to get rid of the vine with repeated treatments.
The Impact on the Environment
A recent study found higher levels of nitrogen in areas heavily concentrated with kudzu. Due to the elevated levels of this gas, the impact on the ozone layer can be detrimental. In addition, increased levels of nitrogen can degrade soil composition that may hamper the growth of other plants.
This loss of other valuable plant life essentially causes kudzu to monopolize an entire region. Ultimately, the disruption in ecological chemical balance can offset the environment and affect a localized area for the worst.
The Impact on the Economy
Though most homeowners will never see substantial economic impact on their personal finances due to this nuisance, corporations and industries have been hit hard by kudzu invasion. Nearly 10 years ago, the agricultural and forestry industry lost over $500 million dollars per year to the loss of productivity regarding this plant.
Power companies faced outages due to the vines’ weight, as much as 400 pounds, pulling down power lines. It is believed that an estimate of $1.5 million is spent, annually, to cut down vines from poles and lines. Whole fields, fences, and houses, that are privately owned, have fallen prey to this botanical predator.
Putting out Fires Closer to Home
On average, this plant has proven to be more challenging considering the macro impact it has had on multiple states. However, from a micro perspective, it is easier to tame. Below are several ways to control the beast of kudzu in your own yard.
Hire a Professional Landscaper
A professional and knowledgeable landscaper has the experience to identify kudzu and deal with it appropriately. Since a lot goes into killing the weed and ensuring that this vegetation does not take over your yard, it may be in your best interest to hire out this task. Georgia’s climate is ideal for the pesky weed and its residents are well accustomed to consulting professionals like Arbor-Nomics Turf, Inc. to help keep kudzu at bay.
Burn and Torch
You can get rid of the kudzu on your own, but it will take future treatments to do so. You can begin by burning the actual vines with a flame thrower during the spring months. Hand-held flaming can damage and kill the younger kudzu plants and leaves, so you can get to the actual root of the problem.
Chop and Remove
Once you’ve burned the vines, you’re now free to chop the remainder of the plant with a blunt instrument. A weed trimmer can help remove the top of the plant and leave the root vulnerable and exposed. After a week, you can check for new growth and remove the leaves immediately.
Herbicides are crucial to thoroughly killing this rapidly growing menace. Tordon K and Tordon 101, a family of mixture herbicides widely used to manage kudzu, are typically recommended by the department of conservation.
Since the chemicals are quite harsh and toxic, you should equip yourself with gloves and a face mask when adequately spraying any vines, roots and remaining leaves of the kudzu plant. It could take several applications for the kudzu plant to finally expire.
Flame and Re-Flame
Once you see the vines, leaves and roots begin to wither and die from the chemical spraying, you need to get out your hand-held flamer and use it on the vines. Burning the vines helps get rid of the kudzu and encourages the growth of other plant life and vegetation.
Plant and Seed
Fall is the best time to re-seed your lawn, especially in areas where you first noticed the kudzu in your yard. The new sprouts of grass are beneficial in preventing the weed from returning and taking over your yard. Planting pine and hardwood trees can also aid in keeping the kudzu from ever growing back.
Kudzu is an aggressive vine that primarily grows in areas of the southeast. However, knowing how to kill it properly can help prevent it from smothering out your other vegetation and ruining everything in its path.