Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) – Management Plan

Written by:  Brandon Holden, Alison Kilpatrick, Jonathan Sukhra, Lily Vuong

IMG_20160705_110452
Canadian Kudzu population along the shores of Lake Erie near Leamington, Ontario. Photo courtesy of Mike Cowbrough (Cowbrough, 2016)

Management Plan

This plan provides details regarding the integrated management plan to eradicate Kudzu from Leamington Ontario. Due to the isolated nature of the kudzu population in Ontario, the recommended management strategy is prescribed burning followed by physical/mechanical removal. This method is labour-intensive and time consuming but can effectively eradicate the species from the province and, therefore, the country. At the Leamington site, kudzu has formed a blanket that extends 31 metres from the beach to the top of a steep south-facing bank, and has reportedly spread along 113 metres of the shoreline, covering roughly 0.35 hectares of land (Waldron, 2012; Lindgren et al., 2013).As the longevity of Kudzu seeds in the soil is unknown (Lindgren, 2010), this management strategy is to be repeated yearly until Kudzu has been eradicated from the site. Following eradication, yearly surveys of the site and surrounding area should be conducted to ensure Kudzu does not  re-establish.

The combination of both management strategies is required to tackle the Kudzu population at Leamington as each on their own would be insufficient or too costly/labour intensive. Prescribed burns are effective at reducing the aboveground biomass, but cannot destroy Kudzu root nodes or crowns (Lindgren, 2010). If the root nodes/crowns are allowed to remain, Kudzu can re-establish.

Mechanical removal of Kudzu, while labour and time intensive, has been shown to be effective at removing Kudzu. Challenges with this method come with large populations where the level of labour required would be prohibitive. Due to the Leamington population being relatively small, addressing Kudzu with mechanical removal would be feasible.

It is the combination of both management strategies that allow this management strategy to be successful. Burning the above ground biomass lessens the amount of work required for mechanical removal, and allows for easier access to the root nodes and crowns. These would have to be removed with hand tools such as shovels, axes and hand clippers as the terrain at Leamington doesn’t allow for heavy equipment.

This management strategy should be implemented once per season, during the summer, after Kudzu has dedicated energy to growing leaves and shoots but before seed pods are established. A secondary burn could be implemented later in the season (fall) to destroy any regrowth following the first burn/mechanical removal. This reduces the remaining energy available to the roots to re-establish the following year.

As kudzu may have originally been planted intentionally at the Leamington site to stabilize the bank, it may be necessary to establish a plan to plant native riparian vegetation to prevent the bank from eroding after kudzu has been removed.

Legal Factors

With the proposed management plan, there are a number of legal factors that need to be taken into consideration. Kudzu is not listed on the Ontario Invasive Species Act and so there are no restrictions or prohibitions with respect to transport, possession or propagation of the plant. The management plan does not rely on pesticides in any form so no considerations need to be made in regards to the Pesticide Act. In Ontario, prescribed burns need prior approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Ontario, 2016). After approval there are still a number of controls must be in place for the protection of private property and the public. There have to be licenced and qualified staff on site, everyone must be briefed as to their responsibilities during the burn, and communication between all parties must be maintained throughout the burn (Ontario, 2016 ).

Potential Challenges and Solutions

The biggest challenge to this management strategy is to ensure timely removal of Kudzu. The plan is designed to quickly destroy the current plants as well as promote seed bank germination in order to deplete it in a timely manner. To this end, ensuring removal of all root nodes and crowns is essential in order to reduce regrowth in subsequent years of the management plan. To ensure this happens, the mechanical removal portion of the management plan must be carried out in a thorough and comprehensive manner.

Conclusions

While Kudzu control can be a significant challenge in some areas, the Canadian population of the plant is small and isolated. The Kudzu population in Leamington represents a unique opportunity to eradicate the entire known population of the invasive plant from Canadian shores. As eradication is currently a viable option, every effort should be made while this holds true. The combination of prescribed burns followed by mechanical removal of root nodes and crowns provides the greatest chance at successful removal of Kudzu while limiting cost and chance of greater environmental degradation. The undetermined nature of kudzu’s introduction into Ontario makes it difficult to design an effective plan to prevent the reinvasion of the species in the future. The likelihood that it was introduced through intentional planting would mean that the only necessary action for the prevention of reinvasion would be to not consider the species for bank stabilization in the future

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