kudzu as an alternative food source?Posted: July 18, 2011
Kudzu is a plant that chokes other plants and is a menace to farmers and land owners. This was a science project that really could change the world, well at least Mars.
For his sixth grade science project, Schindler — now 17 years old — came up with the idea of planting kudzu on Mars.
“We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out CO2, and plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. I started asking what would make it impossible to grow kudzu on Mars,” he said.
Experimenting with different gasses led him to find that helium killed the kudzu but without harming the other plants around it.
“At this point it was still very much, let’s grow kudzu on Mars,” Schindler said. “But what it really became is: How can I eliminate kudzu in an environmentally-friendly way?”
He came up with a modified drill shaft that hooks up to a helium tank.
“I drill the actual device into the ground which allows me to have something underground to disperse the helium with,” he explained.
His mom, Julie has helped him apply for a patent on the device and his methodology.
“When I first heard about Jacob’s ideas, I was a little skeptical. But the more I thought about it, I realized it could have some merit. Kudzu has large tubers and if the helium is choking out the oxygen, it could be suffocating them,” Enloe said.
He and Schindler have been recreating the initial kudzu experiments in a laboratory.
They expect to have some initial results soon.
In the meantime, Schindler has been testing out using kudzu as an alternative food source for Georgia’s Governor’s Honor Program — a summer education project for talented high school students in the state.
“The roots are a starch; it can be used as wine, salads, cakes and kudzu salsa. I’m interested in getting kudzu off the weed list and back on the plant list. It has many uses,” he said.
A 2005 study by Harvard Medical School found that a compound made from kudzu could help reduce alcohol cravings.