Wednesday, 30 August 2017

gentleman farmer

Writing for the Awl, correspondent Clinton Crockett Peters shares the biography of that charismatic megafauna, kudzu, that has invasively engulfed much of the southern United States and is spreading. Growing up in east Texas, Georgia and Alabama I can remember those kudzu monsters, how trees covered and chocked with the vine were propped up and seemed like dinosaurs in the dark, and how aggressively out-of-place it seemed but I never knew its provenance and how it was once peddled as get rich-quick-scheme.
While certainly not without merits if kept under control, kudzu—which was introduced to the American public at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia alongside ketchup, root-beer and the telephone—is native to Japan and afforded greater range will spread with devastating consequences including damage to other agriculture and ecological changes in carbon-cycles, not to mention the pesticides that some resort to beat back its advance. The versatile vine is useful for preventing erosion—though the Dust Bowl still occurred—recharging over-farmed soil and as food for people and livestock, but as with other short-sighted schemes it seems incredible in retrospect that kudzu was subsidised and its planting was encouraged, championed by celebrity “front-porch farmer” Channing Cope through weekly radio broadcasts, and took nearly another century to classify the vine as a noxious weed and begin to realise the effects of introduced species. Read all about it at the link up top.