While not reported in Putnam County yet, Hendricks, Clay, Morgan, Parke and Owen counties have all reported having infestations.
Now, IDNR is ramping up to kill the leafy invader. Over the next few weeks, contractors will begin spraying herbicides on 32 tracts of kudzu vines in 17 Indiana counties.
Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S.
According to the website www.maxshore.com, the Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. The sweet smelling, large blooms of the Kudzu plant appealed to American gardeners who began using it as an ornamental plant.
In July the scent from kudzu blossoms can be detected hundreds of feet from the vines. Initially the flowers are hidden under the leaves but later become so prolific they can be seen easily. The flowers are used to make jelly and other dishes.
Charles and Lillie Pleas, nursery operators in Florida found animals would eat the plant and promoted using it for forage in the 1920s. A historical marker at their Glen Arden Nursery in Chipley proclaims, "Kudzu Developed Here." They sold the plants through the mail.
During the Depression in the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was given hundreds of plants. Farmers received as much as $8 an acre as an incentive to plant fields of the vines in the 1940s.
The climate of the Southeastern U.S. is ideal for Kudzu. The vines can grow as much as a foot per day during the summer. It climbs poles and trees and can blanket a hillside or even a home. Under ideal conditions, the vines can grow sixty feet a year.
In 1972 The USDA declared kudzu as a weed.
And, now it has invaded Indiana. IDNR began a campaign against Kudzu in 2006 as the plant began threatening native plants and trees being covered by the viney overgrowth.
An even greater concern, according to the DNR is Kudzu's ability to harbor the crop-killing Asian soybean rust.
As of now, the state has spent about $18,000 trying to get rid of the plant which has a large root system that can survive having it's leaves killed by herbicide. Eradicating the plant means spraying it every year for three to five years.
According to DNR there are some kudzu tracts that have been growing in Brown County for over 50 years. Vines along the Ohio River have been discovered that are four inches across and have climbed 60 feet into the trees.
Kudzu is related to the soybean plant and is also prone to the same diseases including Asian soybean rust, which can kill or stunt the growth of soybeans and lower their yield.
According to weed scientist Glen Nice, Purdue extension service, kudzu is a problem to soybean farmers because if a patch of the vine is near a field infected with soybean rust, it can allow the fungus to re-infect a field even after it's been treated with a fungicide.
Since 2005, Indiana farmers have received $262,00 from the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service to combat kudzu and other invasive species.