Kudzu is known for growing quickly and for taking over much of the South. However, the weed appears to be spreading farther northward into Ohio, which could increase the state’s risk for developing soybean rust since the weed is a host for the fungus that causes the disease.
The fungus that causes soybean rust typically overwinters on kudzu in the South so that it can return and spread once the weather warms up and moisture returns. The fungus needs a living host to survive. Although Ohio winters aren’t typically warm enough to allow the fungus to survive over the winter, it could provide a host during the spring, summer and early fall months when the fungus is more active.
Ohio’s foresters and federal wildlife officials say the vine is growing in 22 Ohio counties, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The vine has been spreading over the years as 15 counties reported the vine in 2010 and only eight counties reported it in 2009.
In addition to the threat kudzu offers soybean growers, the vine grows voraciously fast, up to one foot a day, kills native plants by competing for sunlight and smothers other plants.
Fortunately for soybean growers, soybean rust has never reached Ohio, but the spores for rust can travel a great distance.
“My worry is if rust came up from the Carolinas, it would hit those areas in Lawrence County and from there it would have to spread (north),” Anne Dorrance, soybean plant pathologist with Ohio State University Extension, told The Columbus Dispatch.
Despite efforts to kill a four-acre patch of kudzu, John Silvius, a professor emeritus of biology at Cedarville University, the weed’s extensive root system allowed it to keep returning even after multiple herbicide applications.