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