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The YMCA on Pine St. in Spartanburg, South Carolina, gave the Coalition permission to use an area overgrown with kudzu as its site for testing methods of kudzu elimination and control. The above panoramic photograph shows its appearance in September 2006, nearly two years after various experiments began. The test site also acts as a visible demonstration to the general public of Coalition methods. Signs identify different ongoing tests, and report results. The photographs that follow show how the site evolved, and activities that take place at the site.
The second photograph shows the area in April 2005, before the Coalition began its experiments at that location. Little kudzu is visible early in the kudzu growing season. The third photograph was taken May 2005 after the area had been mowed, and shows our sign. Note that kudzu guards are already in place on utility pole guy wires (right background).
Coalition cofounder Newt Hardie sketched out an ambitious plan — much amended — for experiments to begin during the 2005 growing season. The idea was to divide the area up into 16 foot by 16 foot plots, each plot reserved for a different experiment. Click on the image for a larger view.
Here are July 2005 photographs showing some of the experiment plots. Colored flags are used to mark the former locations of kudzu plants.
Fences are used as kudzu barriers. The first photograph shows black and clear polyethylene sheets placed over a kudzu-covered fence. The second shows free-standing fences. May and June 2005.
Removing kudzu root crowns using hand tools ("surgical crown removal") kills the plants. The first photograph shows vine (in hand at top), crown (center), and roots (in hand at bottom) of a kudzu plant. The second photograph shows the dense distribution of former root crown locations in the test plot.
There are several types of thermal methods for treating kudzu. One method uses polyethylene plastic sheets, which either absorb or transmit sunlight to "cook" kudzu on the ground. The first photograph shows a high temperature measured under a clear sheet. The temperature is above 140°F, beyond the highest temperature measurable by the thermometer. The Coalition has experimented with black and clear sheets that cover the kudzu over extended periods (second photograph), or a treatment where the sheet alternates between two areas (third photograph).
Another thermal method is to cover kudzu with mulch that composts, which generates heat, as shown in the first photograph. The Coalition discovered that grass clippings are a very effective treatment. A string trimmer (second photograph) is useful for cutting back kudzu vines that cross a property line, or for cutting off vines in the ground that is too uneven for mowing. It is used quite a bit to keep the test site looking neat. The term "fire lane" (later replaced by "buffer zone") refers to walkways around the test plots that are kept clear of kudzu using methods undergoing tests — such as mulching and the string trimmer!
Early work on the test site included removing vines from utility pole guy wires, and general kudzu cleanup around the pole (first photograph). Volunteer Barbara Daniels is pleased to have found and removed a long kudzu vine in the second photograph. Old construction debris on the test site is uncovered by volunteer Paul Savko in the third photograph. April (first two photographs) and August 2005.
Work began late in 2005 on a new section of a public walkway that passes behind the test site. This gave the Coalition the opportunity to closely monitor a construction site formerly overrun by kudzu. December 2005.
Consistent with modern construction methods, kudzu and other plants were bulldozed into piles that were subsequently leveled along each side of the walkway, and then covered with soil trucked in from other sites. December 2005 and January 2006.
Looking down from the walkway, into the test area, much dormant kudzu covers fences and ground unused by Coalition experiments during December 2005 (first photograph). In August 2006 a kudzu-free path was plowed through an unused portion of the area using a skid loader (second photograph).
The test area is unfortunately a local dumping ground, but the Coalition keeps it neat. Here lady volunteers of the Coalition do some cleaning up, while construction of the walking trail is still under way. March 2006.
The Coalition wondered whether kudzu crowns buried during construction along the new path would sprout-through the overlying soil to reclaim the embankment, or whether kudzu on lower ground would climb up to claim it (December 2005). The former did not occur, but the latter would have happened without the Coalition's intervention. Coalition is using the new embankment to test vine redirection (left photograph, July 2006) and tree shelters (right photograph, January 2007).