We explored the allelopathic potential of kudzu as a function of its phenolics. Aqueous and methanol extracts of different kudzu organs (leaf, stem, root, and seed) were assayed for allelopathy with the use of lettuce and radish seeds. Both leaf and root extracts significantly inhibited all of the measured germination indices (total germination, speed of germination, and coefficient of the rate of germination) (all P < 0.01). When treated with leaf extract, the total germination of both species was ∼ 20% less than the control. Furthermore, the leaf extract significantly reduced the speed of germination to 38 and 53% that of the lettuce and radish controls, respectively. Lettuce and radish seeds soaked in leaf and root extracts for 24 h imbibed less water (∼ 30% for both species) than those soaked in distilled water (control), suggesting that a reduction of water imbibition might be one of the mechanisms of germination retardation. Stem and seed extracts affected neither the water uptake nor the germination indices of radish and lettuce seeds. Kudzu leaves and roots contain higher amounts of total phenolics (P = 0.001) and soluble phenolics (P = 0.005) than stems and seeds, consistent with the results of the germination bioassays. In agar plate bioassays, both litter and rhizosphere soil had phytotoxic effects on the radicle growth of radish (P = 0.003) and perennial ryegrass (P = 0.001) seedlings. Perennial ryegrass and cobbler's pegs seedlings grown on leaf and root leachate-amended soil gave ∼ 40% shorter roots and shoots and ∼ 50% less dry weight than those grown in leachate-free soil. Kudzu litter was incorporated and incubated in soil for 6 wk, at which point the soluble phenolics in the soil solution were at a level (> 150 ppm) considered to be allelopathic.
Nomenclature: Cobbler's pegs, Bidens pilosa L.; kudzu, Pueraria montana (Lour.); perennial ryegrass, Lolium perenne L.; lettuce, Lactuca sativa L.; radish, Raphanaus sativus L.