Kudzu (was: Re: gardening ethics)

dr at ducvax.auburn.edu dr at ducvax.auburn.edu
Wed Dec 2 21:54:45 EST 1992


In article <1992Nov19.220630.22380 at mail.cornell.edu>, Thomas Bjorkman <Thomas_Bjorkman at cornell.edu> writes:
> In article <1992Nov18.174905.1 at ducvax.auburn.edu> , dr at ducvax.auburn.edu
> writes:  
>>
>> ...<boring dr at ducvax.auburn.edu stuff deleted>
> 
> I believe that the main motivation of introducing kudzu was as a
> conservation crop to prevent the soil erosion of your item 1.  The
> conservation folks were right about it being a good cover crop!   

That is more-or-less the impression I've always had; however I've 
recently read a couple of period articles which make me think that 
greater emphasis than is generally thought was placed on kudzu's value 
as a forage crop.  A masters thesis at Auburn, "A study of the effect 
of various treatments on the rooting and survival of kudzu seedlings 
and vine cuttings" (ca. 1941) had this introductory paragraph:
  
         "Kudzu (Pueralia thumbergiana) is a plant which most agronomy 
       workers agree is well adapted as a perennial hay crop for the 
       Southern States.  Kudzu does well on land that is too steep 
       or too low in fertility to support other hay crops.  This is 
       especially true in the Piedmont region of the southeastern 
       states where steep slopes accompanied by a humid climate have
       resulted in untold losses through erosion on farm lands in 
       this area."
       
More illustrative is a circular published (1939, and earlier) by the
Agricultural Experiment Station of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute
titled "Kudzu Its Value and Use in Alabama":
         
         "Kudzu, a perennial legume that produces large yields of hay,
       is adapted to temporary grazing by livestock, is an excellent 
       soiling crop and is sufficiently drout-resistant to produce 
       good yields when other crops fail.  Its feeding value compares 
       favorably with other legumes.  It is valuable for soil building, 
       stoping erosion, and planting on road banks, fills, and along 
       gullies..."

The remainder of the 20 pages are spent extolling (citing experimental
data) the many virtues of kudzu.  The Hay Crop section gets 4 pages;
Grazing Crop, 6 pages; Soil Improvement, 2 pages; Propagation, 3 pages;
Erosion, 1 page; Care(!), 2 pages; summary, 1 page.  Just before the 
Summary, there is a cautionary section:

       "Kudzu as a Pest"
       
         "Some farmers have opinions that kudzu may become a pest,
       may not be eradicated, and may spread where it is not wanted.  
       Such ideas are unfounded.  It may be easily eradicated by 
       grazing or by plowing.  Kudzu has been confined to the edges 
       of fields at Auburn for a period of 35 years and has never 
       become a pest or spread to areas where it was not wanted.  
       It may be confined indefinitely to terrace ridges in 
       a field simply by cultivating the field in row crops."

Read today, much of the circular seems a delicious satire - there are 
cautions on how to avoid the loss of kudzu seedlings, warnings to not 
allow livestock to overgraze, etc.  The data shown in the report really 
*is* impressive; I imagine that in its time kudzu seemed as much The Answer 
as, in their times, <insert favorite innovation gone awry>. Rec.gardens 
added to distribution, better historians may wish to add corrections.

	D.R.
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