Kudzu: Under the Vine

Andy and Evan, USA 14-16

The invasive species kudzu has been in America since 1855. Originally featured at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, kudzu was first introduced as an ornamental plant, like it was in Japan, later becoming popular with farmers who used it to control erosion. Many people also used it to create shade around their homes during the heat of summer. Growing quickly in many soil types, kudzu became so popular that in 1943 that Channing Cope created the Kudzu Club of America. At 20,000 members, the club intended to grow 8 million acres of kudzu throughout the South. The club soon disbanded when kudzu became its own problem, covering everything in its path. By the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service was quietly back-pedaling on its big kudzu push.

Kudzu is a problem is because it thrives in foreign ecosystems, allowing it to have distinct advantages over the native species. Once kudzu inhabits an area, it chokes all biodiversity. According to the writers at “The Vintage News,” kudzu inhabits an immense 7,400,000 acres today in the southern United States, growing at a rate of almost one foot per day (at peak growth). Like other places in the world, Polk County, NC, is diverse in its plant life. Over 50% of the world’s plant species are only found in a single country. If kudzu starts growing in somewhere like this (like Polk county), it can wipe out half of the plant species in the world. We need to stop kudzu before it destroys the biodiversity of forests all over the east coast.

How can we, as members of our community, work with our local government to educate others about biodiversity and the kudzu infestation? According to “How Kudzu Works,”there are some known uses for kudzu, such as traditional medicine practices, food, art, and even creating homes. The solution that is the best for our national kudzu infestation is in harvesting the kudzu we have  now and killing the vine so it won’t grow back. Biodiversity of land life and of forest ecosystems is a major contributing factor to helping global warming. Also kudzu doesn’t just stop this biodiversity, it actually hurts the ozone layer even more because it affects the soil’s ability to sequester carbon and at the same time helps to cause climate change. Ten years ago, the Agricultural and forestry businesses averaged a loss of around $500 million per year because of land loss from kudzu. This does not include crops lost due to diseases carried by invasive species.

Conserving Carolina is a program dedicated to protecting and stewarding land and water resources vital to our natural heritage and quality of life in the Carolinas. Conserving Carolina has been working for years to help get rid of invasives around the Carolinas. Biocontrol can also help with the infestation but nothing has been created yet that is more effective than what we have now in that field. While we are becoming more effective in controlling kudzu, it is still advancing and needs a more permanent solution.

Planning to harvest kudzu is an effective way to get rid of it. This plan will help get rid of our infestation, but also it can help to make homes, art, and even medicine. Kudzu is a potential source of biofuels, as well. To get rid of all of the unwanted kudzu we will have to get government funding and create a plan of action. Also if we eradicate kudzu it can help open up more land in the United States. Of the over 80,000 different tree populations, less than about 1% have been studied for potential uses. Eradicating kudzu for homes and medicinal purposes will be the most effective thing that has been done yet to stop kudzu. Studying kudzu can be the small domino that starts the chain of effects leading to helping people and biodiversity over the world. By getting rid of kudzu everywhere; we will not have to use this kind of money again because of kudzu.

On the other hand, eradicating can also bring about many problems; these include but are not restricted to the high initial cost and the possibility of another problem: erosion. Also the best way to get rid of kudzu requires hard labor. It takes almost 12 hours to clear one acre of kudzu. It will take a lot of time to implement and get the government funding. After kudzu has been cleared, it takes years before anything else will grow there again, making it almost like a radioactive area with little plant and animal life. Also, all of the clear land may give way to another invasive species because there is nothing there stopping it. At this point kudzu had already affected lots of the southern United States. Even with these possible negative outcomes, eradicating kudzu is still the best option.

This change needs to happen soon, otherwise we will get to the point where we cannot control the kudzu, and it has affected the whole east coast. Its growth rate is higher than that of any other plant; it can grow almost anywhere. The best thing to do is to get rid of kudzu no matter the high initial cost, because it just gets worse with time. If we do nothing, kudzu expansion will consume our country.

Impacts of eradicating kudzu are economic stability in farming families, higher income rates, and jobs all over the country eradicating kudzu, which will make our unemployment rate go down and our economy as a country go up. Most people who have either worked on or studied kudzu do not believe that our protection against kudzu so far will be effective in the future. In conclusion, we need to implement a plan now to get rid of kudzu; otherwise it will haunt our future.

Kudzu infestation on Macedonia Road, Saluda, North Carolina
The amount of the nation affected by kudzu as of 2014.

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