Kudzu grows under a variety of conditions. For example, the terrain can be level or steep, a creek can be present, and trees might be affected. Effective containment requires the use of various combinations of methods.

Quick one-time treatments rarely yield long–term success with kudzu. Planned, well thought out, multiple year treatments are much more likely to yield true and defensible reductions in kudzu.

There are various methods for attacking kudzu without herbicides. These methods are not generally well known due to their recent introduction and lack of instruction. Even when known, these methods might not be practiced due to the absence of volunteers with suitable equipment (bushhog, skid loader, plastic sheets, brush cutters, and so on), or due to the absence of sufficient volunteer time.

  1. Basics for Permanent Solutions
    1. True success involves MORE than just a one time treatment. While complete elimination of kudzu might not be practical, it is possible and important to establish protocols that ensure long-term control.
    2. Long-term control requires methods that have not normally been considered. For example, key elements for long-term success often include the following.
      1. A first treatment that is generally designed to knock back the kudzu mass.
      2. Second and third treatments that might or might not repeat the first type of treatment. Sometimes it is better to use subsequent treatments that are different.
      3. The timing of follow-up treatments is a factor to consider. Possibly such treatments should take place the same year, and most certainly treatments must take place the following year, and in future years.
      4. Regular mowing.
      5. Planned monitoring to assess kudzu response to treatments.
      6. A restoration plan. What will be planted to replace the kudzu?
    3. The terrain and the amount of plant material present often dictate that the best approach is a COMBINATION of different treatment menthods. This concept is reflected in the protocols outlined below.
    4. Whatever the treatment or treatments, FOLLOW-UP IS ESSENTIAL.
  2. Approach to Kudzu Along the Banks of Railroads
    1. Most kudzu in the city of Spartanburg is near railroad tracks. These banks are often very steep, which is the reason that kudzu was put there in the first place. Kudzu does protect these banks.
    2. Elimination of kudzu alongside railroad banks is not a practical objective at this time.
    3. Thus long-term solutions for containment must address the fundamental threat of continued kudzu growth from the railroad banks into areas where long-term improvement is desired.
    4. The strategic approach that the Kudzu Coalition has adopted is the concept of creating a "buffer zone", which functions like a "fire lane" for containing a forest fire. Our protocols recommend a mowable strip of ground, preferably 30 feet wide between the railroad bank and any adjacent areas being cleared of kudzu. Mowing is an effective method for kudzu control. Thus, if the site being improved is adjacent to kudzu on railroad banks, a "buffer zone" is part of standard treatment protocols.
  3. Approach to Creeks
    1. The use of strong herbicides alongside creeks and on slopes draining into creeks is often not acceptable due to the impact on the aquatic environment, and downstream effects.
    2. Therefore, the protocol for attacking kudzu around creeks might require several buffer zones containing different treatment zones.
      1. Zone A: 0 to 20 feet alongside each side of the creek, which might use several methods.
        1. Black polyethylene sheets specially treated for outdoor use. This is typically used following surgical treatment.
        2. Goats.
        3. Surgical removal of root crowns.
      2. Zone B: 20 to 40 feet from the creek and outside of Zone A, which might use several methods.
        1. Skid loader treatment followed by black polyethylene sheets with UV protection. Typically used following surgical treatment.
        2. Goats.
        3. Herbicide application by a professional certified applicator.
      3. Distances can be increased for creeks surrounded by steeply sloped banks.
  4. Approach for Trees
    1. Usually the first objective is to save trees covered in kudzu. Cut vines manually as high as can be reached. Remove the scaffolding by which the kudzu can climb back up. Create a gap of at least 4˝ feet between the ground and tree branches. Pull dead vines down several months later. This treatment does not kill kudzu plants, but it saves trees.
    2. Surgically remove root crowns. Follow up with a second round of removal two weeks after the first treatment.
    3. Use black polyethylene sheets suitable for outdoor use, followed by surgical crown removal.
    4. Goats.
    5. Herbicide application by a professional certified applicator who should avoid spraying tree foliage.
  5. “Buffer Zone” Concept
    1. Herbicide application or bushhog or other "weapon of mass destruction" to clear a mowable 20 foot or 30 foot swath between the kudzu infested area and the section to be protected from kudzu.
    2. Mow every two weeks during the growing season.
    3. String trimmer "mowing" can be effective but requires weekly treatments during kudzu's fast growing season (June, July, and August).
  6. Monitoring/Patrolling
    1. Designate a specific organization or person responsible for each site.
    2. Walk the site every two weeks during the kudzu growing season. We find that the person doing the patrol must be prepared to use surgical treatments during the patrol.
    3. Record observations in a log book, including the number of crowns removed, whether gapping is performed, and other treatment items of interest.
  7. Follow-Up Treatment and Maintenance
    1. Every kudzu control site will require follow-up treatment during the second and third years. Plan on it from the beginning.
    2. If herbicides are applied over the entire site for a few years, then spot-use might replace full-coverage spraying.
    3. Some crowns might be buried a few inches under soil and leaf debris. Often these crowns are dormant and not sprouting. When overlying or nearby crowns are removed, these dormant crowns might begin to sprout. We see vines from dormant crowns emerge the first and second year after all crowns have been apparently removed. (It is not necessary to dig up kudzu roots. Vines do not come from roots. Roots do not have buds and die quickly after the crown is cut off.)
    4. When the number of surviving crowns is small, consider using surgical root crown removal treatments.
  8. Describing Site Status
    1. Being Worked: Once work begins on a site, and kudzu crowns are still apparent, then the site is described as "being worked". As of November 2007, 34 sites.
    2. Cleared: A site is "cleared" when all visible kudzu crowns are removed. Because we never find all of the crowns the first time we achieve clearance, we return to that site two or three weeks later to check the entire site. This is repeated as many times as necessary until we find less than one kudzu plant per week since the last patrol. For example, if we patrol the site three weeks later and find and remove four kudzu plants, we consider it merely "cleared". As of November 2007, 2 sites.
    3. 100% Kudzu Kill: If we return after several weeks to a "cleared" site, and find only one plant or none, then after removing these few plants we classify that site as "100% Kudzu Kill". As of November 2007, 12 sites.
    4. Eradication: We find that it is possible for dormant crowns — usually a few inches below the ground surface — to put out vines a year after all visible crowns are removed. For this reason, we do not use the word "eradication" until the site has gone a full season without any new kudzu vines. As of November 2007, 1 site.
Newt Hardie
Revised November 2007