The skid-steer removes more than two-thirds of the crowns in a typical, mature kudzu patch. While that removes a huge proportion of the crowns, as many as one-third of the crowns survive. Since we often face fields with 150,000 or more crowns per acre, we still have a daunting 50,000 plants remaining — give or take a few thousand.

Not many entities have the enough volunteers to bite off this magnitude of work. The Kudzu Coalition certainly does not. Each Monday morning our team meets for breakfast and brainstorms ways-and-means for possible improvements. At one such meeting, volunteers considered a variety of tractor attachments that might work effectively as a second treatment, after the skid-steer reaps the first "harvest".

Volunteers had already experimented with various tractor attachements. For example, the first photograph shows Buddy Waters pulling a bush hog to clear ground. The second photograph shows him pulling a tractor bucket teeth-down to scrape kudzu debris off the ground and pile it up for disposal. June 2008.

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Howard Miller suggested that a field cultivator might work as a follow-up treatment to the skid-steer. After several trials, Howard felt that bolting 12 inch sweeps onto the cultivator shafts would be an improvement. The first photograph shows a close-up photograph of a sweep. We see the modified attachment ready to be put to the test in the second photograph. December 2008.

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The first photograph shows the attachment at work, drawn behind Howard Miller's tractor. It literally sweeps many kudzu crowns and roots to the surface — especially when the attachment is used in a second pass at 90 degrees from the first. These swept up crowns and their roots are easily picked up and an impressive — to us — pile quickly accumulated as shown in the second photograph. December 2008.

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This second treatment removes another two thirds of the remaining crowns. What a joy to our tired backs it is to see this second "harvest". Roughly 90 percent of the original kudzu population was removed by combining skid-steer and cultivator with sweeps.

Buddy Waters suggested using a rotary tiller as a follow-up treatment to the skid-steer. The rotating blades shown in the first photograph cut or pull up roots and bring them to the surface, along with their attached crowns. January 2009. The second photograph shows an example of what the tiller digs up. April 2009.

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The rotary tiller is also used in a "normal" fashion after kudzu is removed: The first photograph shows Buddy tilling up weeds that sprouted later. One concern about using a tiller is whether severed crowns brought to the surface would survive and sprout. Two test plots shown in the second photograph tested this possibility. The test plot with the yellow flags contained crowns laid on the ground. The Test plot with the orange flags contained crowns covered with ½ inch of soil. In neither case did the kudzu survive. It was unnecessary to test roots because they never sprout vines. April 2009.

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A combination of these methods was used at the Hillcrest neighborhood, and the photograph shows the final result. 99% removal of kudzu was achieved. May 2009.

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The first photograph shows Buddy's tractor pulling the rotary tiller attachment when the soil is free of kudzu and weeds. Vines wrap around the tiller rotor when the soil is kudzu infested, as shown in the second photograph. Buddy's gloved hand indicates a section of the rotor where he has pulled off the vines. August 2009.

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A lone beat-up crown and connected roots pulled up by the rotary tiller. August 2009.

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The Coalition considers the new tractor-based methods a significant advance for killing kudzu. Below is a summary of what we know as of August 2009. Thanks to volunteer Buddy Waters for describing his effective method.


Farm Tractor & Attachments: The Bottom Line

Killing Kudzu with a Farm Tractor
by Buddy Waters

The Kudzu Coalition is constantly experimenting with various types of equipment in our assault on kudzu. The method I am about to describe is very effective on relatively flat parcels of land. It is not the only way to kill kudzu with equipment (see for example skid-steer loader). In certain situations, other pieces of equipment are needed to supplement what I will describe. Like most farmers I know, I have learned to do my work with the equipment I have.

  1. The method summarized below has the potential to remove up to 99% of kudzu in a one-day treatment, provided that the site is level and open (without trees).
  2. I use a 32 horsepower Kubota farm tractor with a permanently attached front-end loader. I use other pieces of machinery attached to the three-point hitch on the rear of the tractor. There are many attachments that work as well as the ones I use, so there is room for some creativity here.
  3. The first part of the method is to bush-hog the kudzu as close to the ground as possible. In very heavy mature infestations, several passes with the bush hog may be required to cut away the majority of the "biomass".
  4. Once bush-hogging is complete, I use the teeth on the loader bucket to scarify the soil and remove the piles of chopped up leaves and vines left behind by the bush hog. This material is normally pushed out of the work area by the tractor. A clean work area is now established.
  5. I attach a six-row plow with 12" sweeps (broad arrowhead-shaped plow points), and pull the plow thru the entire work area several times to cut and raise roots and crowns to the surface. This part of the process normally requires plowing the area completely in one direction, then plowing in a cross (perpendicular) direction. There are many types of plows, scarifiers, and other pieces of equipment that can be used for this step. Regardless of the attachments used, the idea is to penetrate deep into the soil and pull roots and crowns to the surface. The plow and other attachments are most effective in moist soil that is not saturated, and does not have standing water.
  6. The next step is to remove the plow and attach a rotary tiller to the three-point hitch and the power take-off (the rearward power point on the tractor that powers the bush hog and rotary tiller). Newt Hardie calls my tiller "Roto-Killer"! My tiller is five feet wide and tills to a depth of eight inches. I run the tiller north to south, then south to north seven or eight times. If the plot of ground allows, I then till the ground east to west and the west to east. My experimentation indicates that best results are obtained with seven or eight passes in each direction. The tractor operator learns to feel the resistance of the roots and crowns and, after some experience, can "feel" the condition of the soil and the amount of vegetation in the soil by the strain on the tractor engine and the power equipment.
  7. One tractor and one operator can eliminate 99% of the kudzu crowns in approximately two acres in less than one day. We also find that this method does not cut the crowns into pieces and plant them back into the soil to sprout. It generally severs the crowns from the roots and brings them to the surface where they can be picked up manually or raked away. Weeds begin to sprout in the freshly turned soil within a few days. Most noticeable is Morning Glory.
  8. Some vigilance is required during the weeks following this treatment to find and hand-remove kudzu crowns (see surgical techniques) that are left behind and sprout. We have also noticed that some kudzu seeds sprout. It is not known if the tilling actually dislodges the seeds and plows them in, or if the seeds were already in the soil. Any kudzu that does sprout is normally very easily removed with hand tools.
  9. The soil left behind in these cleared kudzu patches is very rich in organic matter, fertile, and ready for productive use.
  10. Click here for kudzu control methods for small property owners.