Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Goats Employed in Fight Against Kudzu in the South

Kudzu kills other plants as it spreads quicklyOnce upon a time, people in the southern United States enjoyed kudzu for its beauty. Kudzu is a climbing woody vine native to Asia. It produces big green leaves and sweet-smelling purple flowers.

The Japanese brought it to the United States in eighteen seventy-six. It grew well in the warm, wet climate of the southeastern states. People planted kudzu around their homes to hide things like fences.

In the nineteen thirties, during the Great Depression, the government put people to work planting kudzu for soil protection. Between nineteen thirty-five and the nineteen fifties, the government even paid farmers to plant it. The kudzu also provided cattle feed.

Goats eating kudzu
But kudzu kills other growth as it spreads. Finally, in the fifties, the Agriculture Department no longer suggested it as a cover crop. Then, in nineteen seventy, officials declared it a weed. Today it is known as "the plant that ate the South."
A song by Randy Mitchell tells the story of the kudzu-eating goats:
It was the end of August in Tennessee's Chattanooga town
The weather had been hot and humid, summer was a hangin’ ‘round
The vines had been growing long and steady all season long
I knew it was time for me to write another kudzu song
That stuff is growing everywhere even choking out a railroad bridge
But now there's kudzu eating goats out on Missionary Ridge
Read the entire story and see more lyrics at Voice of America

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