Kudzu was first introduced from Asia in the late 19th century but not widely planted until the 1930’s when in 1935 as dust storms ravaged prairies, Congress acted declaring war on soil erosion and enlisted kudzu as a weapon of choice. Over 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by the newly created Soil Conservation Service. As an enticement to plant kudzu farmers were offered as much as $8/acre to plant this vine that would halt the terrible erosion issues plaguing the plains.
Additionally railroad and highway developers, desperate for something to cover the steep and unstable cuts they were carving for new rail lines into the land, planted the seedlings far and wide. There were kudzu queens and region wide kudzu planting contests. In the early 1940s, Channing Cope an Atlanta Constitution columnist even started the Kudzu Club of America, with a membership of 20,000 and a goal of planting eight million acres across the South.
When kudzu is the unwelcomed guest it becomes the target of much work to eradicate. Sometimes its demise comes at the hands of the Japanese kudzu bug, first found in a garden near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, apparently hitching a plane ride and is now infesting vines throughout the South.
The kudzu bug has two favorite host plants to consume, kudzu and soybean plants. The kudzu bug has gained considerable notoriety for the economic problems it causes. However, its initial discovery was as a nuisance to homeowners; in October of 2009, it was first noticed in the United States in nine northeast Georgia counties as large groups of insects flying from patches of kudzu onto the outside walls of nearby houses and structures. A year later, the insect was confirmed to be present in more than 60 north and central Georgia counties as well as limited distributions in North and South Carolina. It is believed that the kudzu bug will continue to spread into most areas where kudzu grows unimpeded throughout the southeastern U.S.
If you have a kudzu problem and are not lucky enough to have the kudzu bug eradicate your patch there is some help available including treating the encroaching kudzu with either a selective or non-selective herbicide. In situations where kudzu has encroached onto an existing landscape a selective herbicide can be used that will kill the kudzu with multiple applications. Likewise in areas where that is not a concern a non-selective herbicide can be used to bring control. Remember that multiple application are likely and it is reasonable to assume that additional treatments the following year are necessary to gain control. Call Downey Trees, Inc., if help on reducing your kudzu headache is needed.