The Coalition to Control Kudzu Without Chemicals invites students and teachers to engage in the process of controlling kudzu. The Coalition will review student proposals and approve them to insure that each one is novel, realistic, and educational. In this way, students have the opportunity of discovering something new and useful about kudzu by using the methods of science.
The best time to conduct kudzu science projects is during the summer, because that is the time of year when kudzu is actively growing. However, some projects can be performed during other seasons. Therefore, the choice of project not only depends on how much time a student has to work on it, but also on the time of year.
Whom to Contact
A Coalition volunteer will act as mentor/advisor to students on each project. Telephone Barbara Daniels (864-592-4702) or New Hardie (864-582-0990), or contact us.
How to Get Started
Ideas for science projects can be found by performing Internet searches, or by reading books or other publications, about kudzu. Students can also look through this web site for ideas, perhaps by reading the history of kudzu or our advice for controlling kudzu.
Students and teachers can also learn more about kudzu, and get more ideas for science projects, by attending the Coalition's regularly scheduled training classes and visiting locations where the Coalition conducts its field work. Read the Coalition activity schedule to learn where it meets and works. The schedule also lists kudzu education classes offered by the Coalition in the Spartanburg area, and sometimes in other locations.
All participating students must successfully complete the Kudzu Coalition's three hour class known as Kudzu Kollege. Safety guidelines are an important part of this education. The students will also learn many facts about the kudzu plant. Most of this information will be very useful during the science project.
Working in Teams
Footing in a kudzu patch can be uneven and at times even dangerous, so we recommend that teams of two (or more) students tackle each science project. We also recommend that students not work alone in any remote location.
The list provided below has examples of questions about kudzu that can be the basis for science projects. Do not try to answer too many questions in a project, or you will never finish! Coalition volunteers can help a student define a project so that it is not too simple, and not too hard. We can do that by phone, email, or during get-togethers in our outdoor work sessions, so contact us.
Questions About Kudzu as Topics for Possible Science Projects
- How long does a kudzu vine grow during the season in Spartanburg? What are variables that affect growth? We believe that during the summer kudzu vines grow at night, more during cloudy days, and even more during sunny days, and that the growth rate is different from month to month. Rainfall might also have an impact. One challenge is to decide how to measure the growth of individual vines. Many measurements are required for this project, so a team effort is the best approach.
- How much area does kudzu currently cover in neighborhoods? Investigate at least one neighborhood selected by students, and at least one selected by the Coalition. What proportion of neighborhood infestations is detectable using existing aerial photographs? The Coalition will provide a student team one $40 software package for using aerial photographs. The infestation area can be measured using a GPS device, which the Coalition will provide if the students do not have one. We encourage students to find ways to use these photographs to help us learn how much kudzu is in a particular area. Perhaps the color signature of kudzu in aerial photographs taken during the summer might be a way of quickly locating many kudzu infestations, and measuring its area.
- How many kudzu plants, indicated by their root crowns, are there per acre? Each crown is capable of growing independently, as a separate plant. Students can count crowns in 1/4 milliacre samples (about a 2 foot by 2 foot square) within distinctly different types of kudzu infestations: Immature open-ground patches, mature open-ground patches, and patches at the edge of stands of trees. Scientists use a 1/4 milliacre measurement device, which the Coalition will provide students, to estimate the number of crowns in an acre. Help us develop a reliable means for estimating how many crowns there are per acre in different types of kudzu patches.
- What proportion of kudzu crowns are killed by mowing? Students mow areas covered by kudzu following a regular schedule. Perhaps kudzu is killed more effectively by mowing every week, or two weeks, or three. Maybe the height of the mower blades makes a difference. The Coalition will provide 1/4 milliacre samplers to assist students count kudzu crowns during the mowing experiment. This project must start at the beginning of the kudzu growing season.
- How hot does it get at ground level under plastic sheeting during the day, how long does it stay hot, and how much does it cool off at night? Because the ambient temperature changes throughout the summer, these measurements are needed for each month of the kudzu growing season (April through October). As background, Clemson University and the Kudzu Coalition have shown that the heat under plastic sheets kills some of the kudzu crowns (about 40% if left in place during the entire summer). We believe that this treatment has the potential to kill kudzu crowns more quickly and more completely if the temperature did not drop off at night. Think about creative ways to keep the temperature warn throughout the night. Do you have any ideas about how to get higher temperatures during the day? The Coalition will provide plastic sheeting.
- How hot do grass clippings get at ground level when they decay ("cook"), how much does the temperature drop at night (if any) during the "cook", and how long does the temperature stay hot? Does the depth of the grass clippings pile affect the temperature? As background, we know that kudzu crowns are killed by the high temperatures inside piles of decaying grass clippings, but getting enough clippings to do this is a problem. Do you have any ideas about how we might combine other readily available materials to create a larger pile, but a pile that still gets hot enough to kill kudzu?
- How wide-spread is the peach scale insect that overwinters on kudzu vines? We assume this has a detrimental impact on the kudzu plant, but its exact effect is unknown. What proportion of the dozens of infestations you are able to study have this insect? Students interested in this project must spend time at the beginning of the project with Dr. Gill Newberry to learn how to identify the insect, where to look for it, and how to document these finds. GPS experience would be a help. Data could be gathered to determine whether peach scale appears equally on small, medium, and large vines and crowns. What percentage of living kudzu vines has peach scale? Does it survive after crowns and vines are removed from a site? Do you have any ideas about minimizing the danger to peach orchards from peach scale?
Remember, this is a list of only a few questions that can be asked about kudzu. Many other questions are possible, and are only limited by your imagination: Be creative. And do not pick a project that attempts to do more than you can do. Fully and properly answering one simple-sounding question can take a great deal of work. Coalition volunteers and teachers are available as mentors to help students define their projects.