Monday, December 10, 2012

The Kudzu Experiment of 1916

"Two new growths: namely the Kudzu vine and Himalaya vine, were taken up experimentally last spring.  From what information this office has secured about the kudzu vine it is hoped that good results may be obtained from it.  It is a legume with a very deep root system which builds up its own soil to fertility.  Its very heavy growth of vines is said to produce a most abundant and valuable hay for stock.  The vines when running along the ground take root at the knuckles like the sweet potato vine, and from these knuckle-roots new runners grow out in the spring.  Thirty land owners are experimenting with a few roots sent them and in a year or two some definite information can be secured concerning their value in reclaiming waste lands.. The object is to try them out to prove their worth."  (Source: The Resources of Tennessee vol. 5, Jan 1915.)

"During the years 1915 and 1916, the efforts of the Forester, Mr. R.S. Maddox, were exerted along the lines of practical forestry and educational work.....Roots of the kudzu plant, a little known perennial legume, were sent to 30 farmers to try experimentally on waste land.....A forestry exhibit was made a the State fair, and at the Knoxville and Dresden Fairs." (Source: The Resources of Tennessee vols. 7 and 8,  January 1917.)

Kudzu, under ideal conditions, can grow up to 60 ft each year and apparently the southeastern United States provides those ideal conditions.  Herbicides do very little to hold it back and some even make it grow better!!  I don't know if the MORAN's participated in the great Kudzu Experiment (I get the impression they didn't) but here's proof Mr. MADDOX encouraged them to take part!  It appears that C.H. MORAN had questions about Kudzu and the ability to get rid of it if he didn't like it on his farm as well as other concerns.  Mr. MADDOX said he would get more information and get back with him.

Letter number 1
State of Tennessee
State Geological Survey
Forestry Division
Nashville

A.H. Purdue
State Geologist

R.S. Maddox
Forester

April seventh, nineteen sixteen

Mr. Harold Moran,
Dresden, Tenn.

My dear Mr. Moran:

I am desirous of trying a new experiment on reclaiming waste lands, and hope you are willing to take part in it.  The kudzu vine is a legume, and grows rapidly where I have seen it.  It is said to furnish excellent feed for stock.  I secured my information from a nurseryman, Mr. J.H.H. Boyd at McMinnville from whom I secured the roots, and also from a circular which he gave me relative to it.

I am sending you, under separate cover a bundle of six roots, which I wish you would set out on some of your waste land, first preparing the place well before you set them out about 15 feet apart and put a shovel full of manure with the dirt well mixed in each hill.

I am much interested in this project, and am sending these roots out to those whom I trust will plant them in the interest of their gullied lands.  I shall endeavor to visit you as early this year as possible to see the experiment.

Very truly yours,
R.S. Maddox
Forester.
RSM/EC.



Letter number 2
State of Tennessee
State Geological Survey
Forestry Division
Nashville

A.H. Purdue
State Geologist

R.S. Maddox
Forester

April tenth, nineteen sixteen

Mr. Harold Moran
Dresden, Tenn.

My dear Mr. Moran:

The kudzu vine so far as I can learn is a new introduction into this country from Japan, and a legume, having nodules on its roots.  I found this at the nursery of Mr. J.H.H. Boyd, McMinnville, Tennessee.  It occurred to me that this vine would be a good thing to experiment with, in reclaiming waste lands.  Mr. Boyd said he knew one vine to grow 70 feet in one year.  The vine runs along the ground and takes root at the knuckles, somewhat similar to the sweet potato vine.  I asked Mr. Boyd if he thought this plant would be hard to get rid of if the farmer wished, and he then showed me two or three rows of nursery stock growing where he had the kudzu vine the year before, and there was no sign of any vine.  

I have sent these roots out as experimental and hope those receiving them will give them careful attention, as they may prove of great value.

Mr. Boyd also says that stock are very fond of the vines, although they contain a good deal of woody substance.  If possible I shall collect more information from the growers of this vine, and mail it to you.

Very truly yours,
R.S. Maddox
Forester.

RSM/EC.

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