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DALY: Keeping kudzu under control can be challenging

The South is famous for the vine known as kudzu. It has an aggressive growth habit that allows it to cover just about everything in its path including large trees and abandoned structures. The vine crowds out native vegetation and disrupts wildlife habitats.

Kudzu kills other plants by smothering them and by breaking off or uprooting entire trees because of its weight. The individual kudzu vines are capable of reaching lengths of more than 100 feet, sometimes growing as much as one foot per day.

The extensive root system of the kudzu vine allows it to survive harsh weather conditions. Many homeowners wonder what they can do to prevent it from taking over their entire property.

Kudzu was imported from Asia in the early 1900s. It was planted throughout the southeast along the sides of roads, railroads and farmland for erosion control as well as forage for livestock. The government encouraged farmers in the south to use kudzu to reduce soil erosion. Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years.

Controlling kudzu can be difficult since it is a perennial weed that has a large underground root system with the ability to store food reserves. Continual pruning or mowing it to the ground will eventually deplete the stored energy in the roots and reduce the infestation.

August and September are excellent months to use a chemical herbicide labeled for controlling kudzu. The leaves are taking food material and transporting it deep into the vine's root system for the winter. Spray the leaves with the chemicals until they are thoroughly wet. Multiple applications are usually required.

Another time to control the vines is during the winter months. While the plant is dormant, cut back the individual kudzu vines to the ground. In May, spray the kudzu shoots when the leaves have fully opened up and are about the size of your hand. Then repeat the treatment in late summer to control any parts of the plant that have grown back. Please make sure you follow all label directions and safety precautions when using chemical pesticides.

If you have very large areas of kudzu, you may need to hire a landscape contractor that has the expertise and resources for controlling it. You can find one through the website of the Georgia Urban Ag Council at http://urbanagcouncil.com.

Even though kudzu is invasive and grows aggressively, it can be brought under control. By using the proper removal techniques, the vine can be reduced or eliminated from your property over time.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu