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State Using Herbicides, Goats To Battle Kudzu

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RALEIGH, N.C. — You have seen it creeping across fields all over North Carolina. You may have seen it choking off trees, smothering road signs, even covering highways.

It is Kudzu.

The state is trying two approaches to killing the creepy crawler. One uses caustic chemicals. The other uses hungry goats.

The strange multi-colored bands of growth along the Inner Beltline near Lake Wheeler Road represent a Department of Transportation outdoor laboratory. The DOT is testing herbicides to see which mix does the best job fighting the dreaded Kudzu.

"The problem is, it grows so fast that it will take over other structures," said Derek Smith, of DOT Vegetation Management. "It will literally choke other plants out."

The pesky plant can grow up to a foot a day. It is nearly impossible to kill. It covers trees, road signs, in some places even the road itself.

Horticulturists brought the plant to the United States from Japan in the late 1800's. Soil conservationists, the railroads, and later the DOT all thought it would be an excellent erosion controller.

"It wasn't intended to be that way," Smith said. "It was just something that occurred."

So now, the state is using chemicals to try and battle all that Kudzu. A lot of people think a biological solution would be better.

Over at North Carolina State University, goats are being used to battle Kudzu. It has been said that goats eat anything. N.C. State researchers are finding out that Kudzu leaves really get their goats going.

"It is effective, and it is a little bit strange," NCSU researcher Steve Leath said of using goats. "But you have to realize that all research is for things that are new and different that haven't really been done before, and this is another area we're looking at."

While the goats munch, and the chemicals soak in, the Kudzu keeps multiplying. Studies soon will show what is the best method for stopping it.

Up until the current experiments, crews have mowed down Kudzu, even tried to burn it back. But no solution has proved completely effective so far.

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