Spotting the Vine that Ate the South in Ohio

Imagine a weed that grows a foot per day and has the power to swallow a whole house, spread through fields and even reach the tips of power lines.

The weed is called kudzu and in recent years, it has crept into Ohio. It has the potential to kill entire forests by depriving trees of sunlight and weighing down their branches.

During the Great Depression, farmers in the South were paid $8 ($256 today) per acre to grow kudzu for soil conservation. It was called the “miracle vine,” but soon became known as “the vine that ate the south.”

  Map of the distribution of kudzu in the U.S. in 2011.       
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, kudzu covers about eight million acres of land in the U.S. The weed has spread to 15 counties in Ohio, mostly in the southeast, but has been found as far north as Summit and Cuyahoga counties, AgFax said.

Kudzu costs the United States $500 million per year in damage to forests, according to Eat the Weeds. It also lures the kudzu bug, a damaging species that feeds on kudzu and any crops the weed grows around.

A program, run by the Ohio State University Extension, is targeting kudzu and trying to make Ohioans aware of the problem.

“Kudzu is in scattered spots in Ohio,” said Kathy Smith, director of the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program. “We’re hoping to raise awareness of kudzu specifically and of invasive species in general.”

The program recently released a poster and smartphone app to help control the weed. Ohioans can use the poster to recognize the weed and then report it with the program’s free Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) app.

For a free copy of the poster, contact the Ohio Woodland Stewards Program at ohiowoods@osu.edu. The app can be downloaded here.

Have you spotted kudzu on your farm?

Spring Reveals Problems for Northeast Ohio Wine Industry


Photo Credit: The Wine Merchant
The snow has disappeared and many Ohioans are getting excited about sunny days and outdoor pursuits, while the agriculture industry is looking back at the effects of winter and preparing for the upcoming planting season.

As I discussed in an earlier blog, this winter had many negative effects on Ohio’s agriculture industry. In particular, freezing temperatures have greatly impacted Ohio’s wine and grape production.

According to Farm and Dairy, Northeast Ohio is in danger of losing its grape crop. The region may even receive a disaster declaration, which is a type of aid to help farmers recover after losses from natural disasters, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

January started out with the polar vortex and below zero temperatures were recorded throughout Ohio. Quoted in the Columbus Dispatch, Gary Gao, an Ohio State University Extension specialist, estimated that European grape varieties have probably sustained 90 to 100 percent injury.

In Farm and Dairy, Nick Ferrante, of Ferrante Winery, said he doesn’t expect a grape crop in 2014.

“I’m hoping we don’t have trunk damage to the vines, but we probably will have some,” Ferrante said.

Donna Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, estimates that between 40 to 100 percent of the grape crop could be lost.

“The problem is that these are the grapes we are betting our national reputation on,” Winchell said.

Quoted in an article by the Wine Merchant, Winchell remembers walking through vineyards in 1994, the last time temperatures were this low.

“It was like walking through Rice Krispies,” she said. “You could hear them snap, crackle and pop. That was the cell structure of the vines exploding.”

Northeast Ohio is a huge producer of wine, with more than 1,300 acres of grape vineyards and 20 wineries, according to the Northeast Ohio Grape and Wine Economic Impact Study. In a 2007 survey by Orbitz, Northeast Ohio was ranked the 6th best wine destination in the United States.

Potential losses in the grape crop will have a large impact on the Ohio economy. The grape crop and subsequent wine production are valued at $6 million and $20 million, respectively.

One thing is certain, however. The price of Ohio wines will not go up this year because of a good 2013 season, which resulted in a wine surplus. However, the future of the 2014 and 2015 seasons are uncertain. 

How has the weather affected your crops this winter?

Farmer Selfies are the Newest Trend on the Farm



Farmer Alan taking a #felfie in his barn.
Photo Credit: Ohio Pork Council.
“Felfies,” or farmer selfies, are becoming more popular on social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Pigs, cows, horses and crops are taking center stage in this movement, which helps farmers promote their industry.

According to a recent Mashable article, their movement took off in Ireland and inspired two websites, felfies.com and farmingselfie.com. Farmers can submit their pictures to these sites in addition to posting them on social media.

“We hope with this website we can put a face to the farmers who work to put food on your table,” said William Wilson, founder of farmingselfie.com.

According to an article from The Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio Pork Producers Council is encouraging Ohio farmers to take selfies on their farm and post them online. They are posting submitted felfies on their blog and Facebook page.

The felfie movement helps tell the story of farmers who work hard to feed our nation. It shows how social media allows farmers to reach new audiences and is a great example of how to advocate for a centuries-old industry.

"It’s actually a pretty great way for farmers to mesh with a pop-culture movement and make a few connections that lead to a little advocacy," said Ryan Goodman, an Arkansas cattleman and agriculture blogger.

We want to see your farm. Take a felfie and share it with us on our Facebook and Twitter!