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Kudzu engulfs an area in Mississippi. Link to photo information
Kudzu completely engulfs this Mississippi landscape and robs it of its value. Click the image for more information about it.

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A Faster Way to Get Rid of Kudzu

By Sandra Avant
July 13, 2016

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, the use of combined management programs can control kudzu more quickly than individual methods in use today.

An invasive weed, kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s. It disrupts native ecosystems, threatens natural resources, and inhibits use of forest land, particularly in Mississippi, where kudzu is pervasive. Land infested with kudzu has little or no value.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Stoneville, Mississippi, reviewed different programs known to successfully suppress kudzu. Mark A. Weaver, a plant pathologist in the ARS Biological Control of Pests Research Unit, and his team used a combination of these programs, including a herbicide-free "organic" system, to achieve a high rate of kudzu suppression and eradication.

Typically, it takes about 10 years of persistent herbicide applications to eradicate kudzu. Weaver developed a series of effective management programs that can substantially reduce kudzu over one- and two-year periods.

Once landowners remove kudzu, they can use their land productively, according to Weaver. They can establish forestry, wildlife habitats and recreational parks.

Weaver applied four different herbicides, individually or in combination, and a bioherbicide treatment at three different kudzu-infested sites. (A bioherbicide is a biologically based control agent for weeds.) He repeated these treatments for two years. Results showed a high level of suppression on the small plots after just one year. An even higher percentage of kudzu—99 to 100 percent—was killed during the second year.

The organic treatment, which simultaneously established native vegetation, killed 91 percent of kudzu after one year and 95 percent after two years. The treatment involves applying a bioherbicide application, mowing and revegetation.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about this research in the July 2016 issue of AgResearch magazine.