Extension Ag Update
May/June 2003
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Here and Noxious: Kudzu

Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator – Crop Systems, Countryside Extension Center, 708-352-0109, ephillps@uiuic.edu

On Sept. 23, 2002 Kudzu was added to the Illinois Noxious Weed list. The Noxious Weed law as established July 1, 1976 and gives the Illinois Department of Agriculture responsibility for enforcing this law. Counties often have local ordinances that are administered through the Public Health or other local departments. The Noxious Weed Law states that the property owner must control the spread of and eradicate weeds identified as noxious. Kudzu joins Canada thistle, musk thistle, perennial sow thistle, giant ragweed, common ragweed, sorghum almum, johnsongrass and marijuana on this list.

Kudzu has been here for a while. In 1996 and 1997 field surveys were done and 53 kudzu populations in 23 counties or a little over 300 acres were found. Although most were in southern Illinois, Kudzu was found as far north as Interstate 80. The Illinois Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Transportation, along with the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service teamed with private landowners to create an eradication program before it becomes a major economic pest. This program included designating Kudzu as a noxious weed in Illinois. The team will identify kudzu populations. Landowners will be contacted for their voluntary cooperation in removing patches of the weed. The agencies will then monitor the site to assure that kudzu does not reestablish.

In 1876 Kudzu was brought from Japan. In the 1930s it was planted extensively in southern states to control soil erosion. It not only controlled erosion, it smothered any plants in the surrounding area. As a vine, it grows densely and quickly. Primarily in southeastern states, Kudzu covers more than seven million acres and spreads to about 120,000 new acres each year with an average of $300 million in damage per year.

Kudzu is semi-woody and has large, trifoliate leaves. Its vines can grow up to one foot a day in every direction during early summer and travel more than 60 feet in one year. Huge starchy, tuberous roots weighing up to 300 pounds and reaching a depth of 12 feet in the soil aid its survival. It is not uncommon to have tens of thousands of plants per acre in established stands.
To see for yourself what this extraordinary climbing vine looks like you can find more information on it at http://invader.dbs.umt.edu/Noxious_Weeds/.

Kudzu can be controlled by persistent and frequent defoliation by mowing or grazing, digging out the root system or by a few select herbicides.