Rust Tales: Louisiana

The Bayou state typically is one of the first places soybean rust is confirmed each year, and its prevalence has led the state to hire a full-time soybean rust scout, Patricia Bollich, research/Extension coordinator. Already in 2009, Bollich has found active soybean rust that’s new and on new kudzu leaves.

Clayton Hollier, Louisiana State University AgCenter plant pathologist, talks about situations that “soybean rust hunter extraordinaire” Bollich has reported to him, along with a few of his own soybean rust/kudzu experiences.

“There are gullies that are covered, and you just don’t know that because that growth is not necessarily down in the gully only, but also sort of across, and it accumulates over time. It’s growing very quickly and very steadily, which makes what might be underfoot scary.
You always look for snakes and things of that nature, not this time of year (winter) because it’s cool, but it’s amazing what you find from time to time. If you’re looking down, you may find a water moccasin or rattlesnake underneath — mostly water moccasins because they like that sort of environment. And it just scares you to death and you kind of run. especially if you don’t like snakes like I don’t, and I think Patricia does not.”

“There was the time that Patricia felt something running along to one side but didn’t know what it was because it wasn’t as tall as the kudzu. So she didn’t know if there was a bear running through there, a dog running through there, or what was running through there. It finally stopped and went another direction, so she never really found out.
But we have black bears in this area, and sometimes you get a cub running through the kudzu. They’re not terribly large bears, not compared to grizzly or anything of that nature, so they could be running on all fours, they could be down in there. You never know what the animal really is until it gets to you or you get to it.”
This time of year (winter), it’s not an issue because you can see where you’re stepping. But when the season starts and it warms up and the kudzu starts growing crazy like it does — you’re a lot more careful.

“And another thing, it’s advisable to use like a walking stick, something to just push back that canopy so you can see before you step. That’s just the safe thing to do.”

“When I was a kid we had a spot in the back of our place along the railroad tracks that had some kudzu, and it probably engulfed maybe 3 acres. But we used to put some cows back there because they loved to eat it.
There are two reasons why it was brought into this country, and one was erosion control. And the other really because it’s not a bad forage. It grows so prolifically and livestock love to eat it. Cows just think they’re in heaven.
I wouldn’t want to try kudzu myself, but there are songs, there are jellies, there’s all sorts of edibles made from it, there’s a cookbook, and there are kudzu Web sites.”

By Amy L. Fahnestock

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