Soybean crops threatened by South’s new ‘kudzu bug’


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First, the South was plagued by kudzu, the all-smothering, fast-spreading vine from Japan.

Now the region must contend with the spread of the so-called ‘kudzu bug,’ another Asian import that not only eats troublesome, hard-to-eradicate kudzu (good), but also has a taste for America’s lucrative soybean crop (bad).

The Associated Press reports that the bug, Megacopta cribari, was discovered near Atlanta a couple of years ago, and has spread throughout Georgia and into the Carolinas and Alabama.


For soybean farmers, it can mean crop losses of more than 20%.

The robust, pea-sized creature, a member of the stink bug family, could spread ‘anywhere in the United States that we grow soybeans,’ Tracie Jenkins, a University of Georgia plant geneticist, told AP.

That should be alarming to a domestic agricultural industry that has seen the value of its soybean production jump from $10.8 billion in 1984 to $31.7 billion in 2009, according to the American Soybean Assn.

What will this mean for the evolving cuisine of the South, where crafty, vanguard vegetarians have created a tofu dish that tastes a lot like pan-fried chicken?

And what impact will it have on the Southern gothic aesthetic, which counts kudzu among its most enduring cliches-slash-metaphors?

Hard to say -- although it’s a lot easier to imagine a South without tofu than a South without cliches.



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