Elkton man looks to address Kudzu infestation along Route 33

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 7:10 PM EDT
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ELKTON, Va. (WHSV) - An Elkton man is taking action after learning about an infestation of an invasive plant in the town. Kudzu is a vine that is native to Asia and continues to spread year after year. The plant has spread throughout the Southeastern United States and has been spreading along Route 33 in Elkton.

“I went there, purposely took a look, and was extremely concerned with the close ratio it had to our river and how quickly it could spread so I started to reach out to some people in the community to try and find some help and resources to attack it,” said Nick Campbell, an Elkton resident.

Campbell was made aware of the infestation by another resident and began reaching out to experts like the Rockingham County Virginia Cooperative Extension Office and Blue Ridge Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).

Both organizations said it’s important to take action if you spot the plant growing on your property.

“Being a perennial plant if you allow it to establish, every year that colony will just get larger and larger. In just a few years’ time it can take over 5 to 10 acres of forest,” said Matt Booher, an Extension Agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Rockingham County Office.

Booher said that Kudzu thrives in sunny, warm environments and can grow up to a foot a day and be devastating to native plant species.

“It can kill large trees and shade out and outcompete native vegetation for nutrients, sunlight, and water,” he said.

Blue Ridge PRISM said it is very important to try to deal with a Kudzu infestation as early as possible.

“It tends to establish along stream courses and get out of control. Once it’s out of control it becomes financially unfeasible to be able to control it downstream,” said Jim Hurley, a Blue Ridge PRISM Board Member.

Hurley said the proximity of the Kudzu infestation in Elkton to the Shenandoah River is a concern.

“The plant spreads largely by parts of the plant splitting off during intense rainfalls and flooding and scouring. Chunks of the plant can break off and then take root further on downstream,” he said.

According to Hurley, Kudzu is powered by deep root rhizomes that put out the vines of the plant that spread out across the ground and climb up trees. These rhizomes allow the plant to survive less than ideal conditions underground. Another issue is the lack of natural obstacles facing the invasive plant.

“There are no native organisms for the most part that recognize it as food that would eat it and slow down its growth, so it’s pretty much free to use the resources, the light, the water, the soil resources,” said Hurley.

After Nick Campbell was made aware of the infestation and contacted local experts he began working with the county and the town of Elkton to try to address the problem.

“They’re actually going to provide us with an inmate work crew. I think Gaither Hurt, our public works director, has reached out to them to put in the request. They’re going to send out an inmate work crew to help us severe the vines and clean up what is there,” said Campbell.

The infestation along Route 333 stretches for around a quarter mile and Campbell said it is important that it is dealt with.

“Our natural resources are extremely important to our town. Tourism is a big part of what drives our economy. Obviously, most of the people that come to our area to visit are here to see our rivers and forest and we need to protect them. So it’s something that we need to take care of,” he said.

Blue Ridge PRISM said that dealing with the plant takes a combination of mechanical and chemical methods. With vines that are climbing up trees and power lines that need to be clipped as low as possible and vines on the grown needing to be sprayed with a chemical solution.

“The cutting of the vines can happen during the winter. It’ll green up and fully resprout by June and into July. Then you can do the herbicide spraying in the July-August timeframe,” said Hurley.

Hurley said that in most cases it will likely take at least two years of treatment to fully put down an infestation.