Kudzu winning ground in Polk County

Published 3:49 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kudzu growing along Hwy. 9. (photo submitted)Although there are strong eradication efforts in Spartanburg County, there are currently no public efforts under way in Polk County. Polk County Manager, Ryan Whitson, confirmed that there are no efforts under way at the county level. Town eradication budget funds have sometimes gone unspent.

John Vining recommends that the emphasis be shifted from attacking large areas to making sure that small patches never get established. He cites a number of areas that started as small patches that are now overrun. For example, on Holbert&squo;s Cove Road, one small patch a couple of years ago has become 10 patches, covering what he estimates to be five acres.

But Vining is the first person to tell of the positive aspects of this &dquo;miracle plant.&dquo; These range from its being nutritious to eat for people and animals alike, being the best at preventing soil erosion, to making great compost.

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When asked about how the plant has done this season, Vining said &dquo;like all vegetation, the kudzu has had a great year and is spreading rapidly.&dquo; With the rainfall and sunshine this year, conditions are ideal. Kudzu has suffered less during the recent drought because of its deep roots.

Ron Searcy of Wells Farm in Transylvania County, who provided the goats for last summer&squo;s eradication project in Tryon, says that he has seen a doubling of activity. However, he reports that, from our area, he gets &dquo;many questions about using the goats but very few people are sufficiently concerned to follow through with eradication.&dquo; He indicated that goats can be an effective part of a multiphase effort because they can clear the vegetation so that equipment can get into the area safely.

Unless a parcel is going to be completely stripped and bulldozed, removing kudzu can be costly and can require a multi-year process.

Some concern has been raised about whether land with heavy kudzu will not sell as well as other land, particularly for residential buyers. Nearly 15 years ago, a resident wrote to Vining, &dquo;I&squo;m afraid that if it&39;s not controlled, it will eventually cover much of the county, negatively affecting property values, lifestyles and the overall desirability of Polk County.&dquo;

Jim Smith, developer of the Lake Adger and Green River residential communities, understands the need to keep kudzu out of his developments. &dquo;If you are looking at developing a property, the cost of removing the kudzu has to be included in your plan.&dquo; Smith cited the difficulty and persistence required to properly remove kudzu. Don&squo;t have Kudzu now? Keep it from getting started

It is very important for residents to prevent kudzu from ever getting a foothold on their properties.

One Columbus resident showed where vines over 30 feet long had grown along the ground on her property.&bsp; The base of the plant was far into the neighbor&squo;s property. The vine had few telltale leaves and blended so well with the ground that it was difficult to see.

It is recommended that property owners walk their lot lines once in June and again in the fall.&bsp; Any kudzu shoots that are found should be immediately eliminated using the methods described below. Also scan your entire parcel in case the plant has been able to jump your perimeter.

How to get rid of kudzu

There are basically four ways of controlling kudzu which can be used in combination.&bsp; For example, having animals graze may give you enough visibility to see where you can mow and where it is safe to use chemicals. All of the methods require repetition over time.&bsp; The first priority should be cutting the kudzu off any trees or shrubs that are to be kept.&bsp; This should be done even if you are not in a position to eradicate the entire mass of kudzu.

The four methods are:


A low cost method with side benefits is to have goats, cattle or equines graze the plant. It is necessary to overgraze the area, unless you are using the kudzu as a continuous source of fodder. As with all changes in feed, animals should be introduced to kudzu gradually.

Eradication of kudzu takes perseverance and the animals will need to eat the kudzu off for three years running to be effective.


Mowing should begin in April and be repeated several times until no new growth appears.&bsp; Mowing should be done as close to the ground as possible. If the patch is very small, cut the plant to the ground by hand whenever it sprouts.


If it can be done safely, burning is another way of destroying the plant above the ground.&bsp; It can be a good first step when mowing is not possible because the plants are too high or the ground too uneven.

Chemical herbicides

These are applied during the growing season, May to September.&bsp; The chemicals required need to be used and handled with care. Locally, the Cooperative Extension Office is prepared to assist you (http://polk.ces.ncsu.edu). Clemson has a detailed description of the chemicals at www.clemson.edu/extfor/publications/ec656.