SPRINGFIELD, IL - A coalition of state and federal agencies has approved an action plan to prevent the spread of and eliminate from the state populations of kudzu, a fast-growing, high-climbing exotic vine that threatens to do significant damage on public and private property in Illinois.
The Illinois Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Transportation, along with the U.S. Forest Service (Shawnee National Forest), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have joined in the unique partnership to eradicate kudzu in Illinois before the federally listed noxious weed becomes a major economic and wildlife habitat pest.
"Many exotic species plague our state and kudzu may be the only one we have a better than even chance of eradicating," said Brent Manning, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, whose agency is coordinating the action plan. "If we act now in cooperation with landowners and these agencies, while the kudzu population in the state is relatively small, we have a fighting chance."
Manning said a three-year survey by the IDNR found fewer than 100 populations of kudzu in Illinois covering less than 400 acres, mostly in the southern one-third of the state. Biologists fear that the Illinois kudzu population may be entering what is known as an "exponential spread phase" seen in other states and could begin to spread rapidly.
Kudzu covers more than seven million acres, primarily in the southeastern United States, and is spreading at a rate of 120,000 acres per year. It causes more than $300 million in damage per year to agricultural and forested lands, resulting in substantial losses of wildlife habitat and biodiversity. In Illinois' neighboring states, Missouri officials are beginning to address the growth of kudzu there, while kudzu has become so pervasive in Kentucky that officials believe eradication is not an achievable goal.
"We simply cannot afford to let kudzu get a foothold in Illinois" Manning said. "Bringing together the substantial resources of these agencies in a program of integrated pest management is the best chance we have of fighting off the kudzu problem. "
The Integrated Pest Management approach allows the participating agencies and landowners to determine cooperatively kudzu eradication techniques that will work while minimizing risks to human health, wildlife, other vegetation and the environment.
The multi-year program will identify kudzu populations and contact landowners for their voluntary cooperation in the eradication effort. The agencies will coordinate planning and implementation of the initial and follow-up treatments and conduct subsequent monitoring. The services will be provided free of charge to private landowners.
Eradication of kudzu on Illinois Department of Natural Resources properties is already underway. All of the known populations of kudzu at five IDNR sites are being treated. Biologists are confident that kudzu has now been eliminated at two sites: Giant City State Park in Jackson County and the Union County Conservation Area. In addition, treatment has been initiated on approximately one-third of the known kudzu populations on private lands in the state.
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) was introduced into the United States from Japan in 1876. Though promoted and planted in the 1930s to control soil erosion, kudzu has grown out of control, smothering, suppressing and killing other plants beneath its thick mass of leaves and vines, interfering with natural ecosystem function. It has been listed as a federal noxious weed since 1997.