Kudzu Causes Air Pollution

Kudzu Causes Air Pollution

Kudzu vines kill trees, smother native species, bury barns and houses. A new study says they cause air pollution, too. Invasive Pueraria lobata is infamous as “the weed that ate the South,” burying the countryside in tough, fast-growing vines with roots that can weigh up to 400 pounds.

Those roots fix nitrogen from the soil quite efficiently, which might be a good thing if microbes didn’t release much of that nitrogen into the air as nitric oxide, one of the gases that comes out of your car’s tailpipe. This nitric oxide reacts with sunlight and elements in the lower atmosphere to produce ozone and other components of smog, just like in the big city.

Unlike agricultural peas or soybeans, there are no beneficial tradeoffs from kudzu, and there are 7 million acres of the stuff in the USA, spreading at the rate of 120,000 acres per year. A kudzu vine can grow one foot a day, 60 feet in a single season. Some vines are 100 feet long and six inches in diameter, and a single root may anchor 30 vines.

State and federal agencies have kudzu eradication programs, but they don’t seem to be making much headway. The stuff can be fermented into wine or fuel, and edible starch can be made from it, but no one in America is doing any of this on a large-scale basis.

The late Ronald Reagan though pollution came from trees. He was partly right, but lots more of it seems to be coming from the vines smothering those trees.

 

Note: Read about an earlier study by the same researchers.

Extra: Kudzu blossom jelly recipe.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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