Kudzu, the “plant that ate the South,” is now in Ohio. And experts with Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences want people to know it.
Specialists with the college's outreach arm, Ohio State University Extension, have created and are distributing a new identification poster featuring the climbing, entwining, engulfing invader.
“Kudzu is in scattered spots in Ohio. One of the reasons for the poster is to get a better idea of where and how much of a problem it is,” said Kathy Smith, director of OSU Extension's Ohio Woodland Stewards Program. “We’re hoping to raise awareness of kudzu specifically and of invasive species in general."
She said she hopes the poster leads to more Ohioans spotting then reporting kudzu, which they can do using the program’s free Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) smartphone app. Early detection usually leads to better and cheaper control.
Kudzu grows fast, smothers everything in its path -- including trees, buildings and utility poles -- and is difficult and expensive to get rid of once established.
Considered a significant invasive species, kudzu has been reported in at least 15 of Ohio’s 88 counties, mostly in the southeast part of the state but also in Summit and Cuyahoga counties in the north, according to the national Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS).
In all, kudzu covers an estimated 8 million acres of land in the U.S., mostly in the Southeast, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
One estimate puts the weed’s cost in the U.S. at more than $500 million a year when counting both control efforts and lost forest productivity.
Kudzu vines, shown here below Cincinnati's Kenton Street Bridge, smother street signs, utility poles and anything else in the way. They also choke out other plants, including trees. (Photo: Joe Boggs, OSU Extension.)
There’s also concern that another damaging invasive species, the kudzu bug, may follow the plant to Ohio.
Already widespread in the South, the aptly named kudzu bug feeds, yes, on kudzu but also on soybeans, whose annual positive economic impact in Ohio is more than $5 billion, according to the Ohio Soybean Council.
And like the annoying, invasive multicolored Asian lady beetle, which it resembles in size, the kudzu bug swarms on and invades people’s homes in fall, seeking a place to spend winter.
Fortunately, the kudzu bug hasn’t reached Ohio yet, Smith said.
Kudzu bugs swarm on and often into people's homes in fall. They feed on both kudzu and soybean plants. Experts fear the pests may follow kudzu into Ohio and, besides being a nuisance, may hurt the state's soybean crop. (Photo: Matthew Gibson, Bugwood.org.)
Sightings sent in by people using the GLEDN app go into the EDDMapS system, which scientists use to track and manage invasive species around the U.S. -- not just kudzu and kudzu bugs but Asian carp, zebra mussels, emerald ash borers, thousand cankers disease and hemlock woolly adelgids, to name a few.
Copies of the kudzu poster have been sent to Ohio’s state forests, OSU Extension county offices, and farming- and natural resource-related agencies, with further distribution to come in cooperation with the Ohio Invasive Plants Council, Smith said.
For a free copy of the poster, contact the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program at email@example.com or 614-688-3421.
The poster was published with funding from the Renewable Resources Extension Act through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
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