Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council

NON-CHEMICAL ALTERNATIVES TO CONTROLING KUDZU (PUERARIA LOBATA). Jack N.Callahan, Callahan's Kudzu Management LLC, Cleveland, TN 37312 (


Kudzu is first recorded to have arrived in the United States at an 1876 Plant Exposition in Philadelphia, PA. Used originally as an ornamental, over time it was planted for a variety of uses, from cattle forage to erosion control. Estimates place current infestations totaling over seven million acres in some twenty-six states. The current kudzu population has an estimated spread rate of at least one hundred twenty five thousand acres per year. (1)

In the mid 90's an independent study was begun to determine if an indigenous plant exhibited allelopathic tendencies toward kudzu. A limited observation of numerous kudzu infestations over a five-year period, while not identifying such a plant, did determine a specific growth characteristic of kudzu. Simply put, kudzu is unable to climb an object (tree, power pole or similar host) with a diameter greater than about eight inches. This realization led to a detailed study during the 2002-growing season on a kudzu-infested site in Cleveland, TN. The study was funded in part through a USDA Forest Service grant administered by the Southeast Tennessee Resource, Conservation and Development Council in Cleveland.

Over sixteen sub sites were established to determine a simple cost effective device to prevent kudzu from climbing guy-wires and similar structures normally found in utility right-of ways. A section of fence was also treated with a barrier to determine if the kudzu might be stopped from spreading along the ground.

Throughout the growing season it was determined that 1) kudzu will only stand unsupported to a height of about three and one half feet, 2) kudzu will not climb a structure with a diameter greater than about eight inches, or a total perimeter of more than about 24 inches, almost irrespective of the shape. Using these two maximums, a prototype device was developed to field test the inability of kudzu to grow around it.

During the 2003 growing season, some 50 prototype devises were installed on nine different electrical utility's equipment in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. The success rate for these devices was greater than ninety five percent, with the five percent failures due to inappropriate installation. In February 2004 the US Patent Office issued a utility patent for these devices and several derivatives. Testing is ongoing on additional methods to prevent the spread of kudzu using natural shade as a deterrent.

Results of over two years of field testing show that kudzu can be controlled from spreading or climbing using very simple non-chemical devices on almost any structure with a height of more than five feet.


  1. Kudzu in Alabama: History, Uses and Control Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities ANR-65, John W. Everest, James H. Miller, Donald M. Ball and Mike Patterson
University of Georgia The Bugwood Network Forestry Images   The Bugwood Network - The University of Georgia
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Warnell School of Forest Resources
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