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A Permaculture Approach to Kudzu?

 
David Galloway
Posts: 78
Location: Greenville, SC
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Those of us who live in the Southeastern USA know about kudzu, the extremely invasive species from China/Japan that flourishes here. Most of the abandoned houses and such in my area are covered with kudzu for most of the year.

The plant does have several uses; it is a nitrogen-fixing legume that can be consumed by humans, useful for erosion control, and makes high quality forage for livestock.

I'm wondering how Geoff, Paul, Sepp, and anyone else wise in the ways of the (Permaculture) Force would try to incorporate an invasive species such as kudzu without having to constantly keep it at bay.

Thanks for reading!
 
Geoff Lawton
permaculture expert
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Hi David

I like it.

It definitely is a hard working immigrant.

Cut for for high quality nitrogen rich mulch and direct that to plants, trees and compost that you want, graze it and convert it into protein and animal tractor it where you want to remove it.

We can also eat it in various ways.
 
Leron Bouma
Posts: 25
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
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Dan Hemenway of Barking Frogs Permaculture wrote a paper with some ideas about utilizing Kudzu. You can find that .pdf file here,
http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org/kudzu.pdf
 
Andrew Michaels
Posts: 75
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Interesting, Geoff.

One aspect of my PDC I loved was discussions of how pioneer species go into empty, damaged areas and often create thorny, hard-to-penetrate biomass that stops erosion and often contributes nitrogen to the soil, depending on the species.

In the tropics, you often have these thorny patches. It's almost like nature is hanging up, "construction ahead, go away" signs.

However, in many cases these species are part of a succession. Eventually, when the soil is improved, you have a bush or tree that shoots up through the pioneer species and eventually shades them out.

But Kudzu is like nothing I've seen before in this category. Yes, it's great for stopping erosion and fixing nitrogen, but it can grow even in nitrogen-rich soil (as far as I know) and can overcome very productive forest ecosystems, killing them.

If you chop and drop kudzu, will the cut portion regrow, or only what's attached to the root?

Is there any way to plant a thick enough density of plants and improve the soil enough so that kudzu can't take root?

 
Leron Bouma
Posts: 25
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
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Hey Rustic,
My understanding is that the Kudzu roots grow very large, so the best way to get rid of them is to put some pigs in the area and let them do their thing. The pigs will dig out the roots. If you want to keep it as part of the ecosystem graze it with cows or if it's too twiggy goats will browse it down to manageable level. I think that management is solution to the problem, if you let it run some things will get overrun.
 
Suzy Bean
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
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Paul and Kelda continue reviewing chapter 2 of sepp holzer's Permaculture in this podcast.

They talk about kudzu.
 
osker brown
Posts: 146
Location: Southern Appalachia
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Leron Bouma wrote:The pigs will dig out the roots.

Haha, that's funny. Mature plants grow rhizomes that are the size of a large cow, I very much doubt any pigs will dig them out. I saw a video once of roots being harvested in Japan using bulldozers.

I was at a mushroom cultivation workshop where it was suggested that trials with shredded and pasteurized kudzu vines as a substrate for oyster mushroom production were promising.

That and goat forage seem like the most realistic management strategies. Sadly, folks in the south seem unlikely to start consuming kudzu roots.
 
Jason Matthew
Posts: 66
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My experience with invasive wisteria in this area leads me to just stay away from both it and kudzu. Unless you are going to keep livestock on hand to eat these invasives, they are just to much work to keep contained. The wisteria I am dealing with is sending roots snaking across the ground a hundred feet from where it was originally planted. It will be years of constant cutting to remove and contain it. Kudzu would be even worse. Without the animals to control these plants, they are not a good idea to plant in my climate zone.
 
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