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Solutions

Kudzu’s rapid rate of growth makes management and removal very difficult. Conventional methods of control (removal by hand with tools or by burning) are largely ineffective, since the dispersal of roots in any given area is too extensive to ensure complete destruction, and the growth rate makes regeneration unmanageably fast. Other methods have been explored, but none have been put to use on the scale that is needed to make significant progress.

Chemicals and Diseases

Chemical and bioherbicidal treatments are usually the preferred method for elimination. One study showed that the use of glyphosate combined with the pathogenic fungus Myrothecium verrucaria can be successful at limiting the expansion of kudzu and, with further study into the process, could possibly be implemented on a large scale. The report mentioned that other such agrochemical and bioherbicidal combinations have already received patents as weed killers, and have been implemented with some success. However, precaution must be taken when such methods are used, and usually cannot be used near sensitive areas like crops or near rivers and other bodies of water.

Livestock

One method that has already been implemented to some extent is the use of grazing animals for clearing large patches of the vine. Since one of the primary reasons kudzu was originally cultivate in the United States was for livestock feed, using such animals as goats or sheep is not very far fetched.

In this video goats have been successfully used to reclaim kudzu infested areas in Chattanooga:

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Video courtesy of ChristianBruce, Youtube

Solarization

One alternative explored by researchers at Clemson was the use of polyethylene sheeting for the solarization of Pureraria montana. Solarization is the use of plastic sheets to block sunlight from reaching the leaves of the plant, and therefore remove its energy source. If kudzu is covered with polyethelene sheets for at least two growing seasons, expansion is stopped and the bulk of the plant is killed. This method can be used as an alternative to chemical methods of control in restricted areas, or by private property owners who lack the training needed to handle herbicides. However, solarization of kudzu is not cost effective for large patches of Pueraria montana, since ultraviolet light-resistant sheeting must be used to avoid constant replacement of sun-damaged sheets. Therefore, solarization is only a viable method for small patches in highly sensitive areas.

Conversion into Biofuel

Another possibility worthy of consideration is the use of kudzu as a source of bioethonol production. One study found that the large amount of starchy material in the roots of kudzu could conceivably be harvested from an invaded area and processed. One kudzu field can potentially produce amounts of ethanol comparable to maize harvested from a field of the same expanse. The study claimed that not only would creating a market for the cultivation of kudzu reduce the extent of invasion, but would also stimulate the agricultural economy of the Southeast. However, there are many barriers to the implementation of this idea, starting with the absence of technology for the harvesting of kudzu roots. Also, kudzu’s status as a noxious weed as well as its documented adverse effects on the environment would prove to be significant barriers to the steady use of kudzu as biofuel.

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