Detection dogs trained to find Japanese knotweed – the most invasive plant in UK

Detection dogs trained to find Japanese knotweed – the most invasive plant in UK

Homeowners have two new allies in the fight against the invasive Japanese knotweed: Mick and Mack, a pair of one-year-old Fox Red Labrador Retrievers, are the first dogs in the UK specially trained to detect Japanese knotweed rhizome even in winter, when the plant is dormant beneath the ground.

Introduced in the UK in 1840s, Japanese knotweed is thriving, and grow at the incredible rate of 10cm per day – reaching three metres in height by late summer. Described by the Environment Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”, knotweed can cause extensive damage to property, breaking through “cracks in mortar, brickwork, joints in concrete, drains, sewers, driveways and even the cavity walls of our homes”.

Environet’s live Japanese knotweed heatmap allows people to enter a postcode to discover the number of infestations within a 4km radius, with the worst affected areas highlighted in yellow or red.

japanese knotweed
Photo by HOerwin56 on Pixabay

Mick and Mack, who were specially trained for Environet UK, can cover a garden or development site in a matter of minutes and will indicate by ‘freezing’ when Japanese knotweed is detected.

While sellers are required to disclose if their is affected by Japanese knotweed, many mark it as “not known”, leaving the onus of carrying out checks to the buyer; in some cases, sellers will knowingly conceal the plant’s presence on the property.

Nic Seal, Founder and Managing Director of Environet, says, “Japanese knotweed is a growing problem for homeowners in the UK and misrepresentation cases are on the rise, where sellers have answered dishonestly about whether their property is affected or deliberately concealed the plant.

“It’s not uncommon for knotweed to be cut back prior to a survey and I’ve even seen cases where the seller has placed a membrane horizontally in the ground over a knotweed infestation and laid a lawn or pathway over the top.”

Jason Collins, Operations Manager at RFA Security, says, “Highly trained detection dogs have a long history of working with the police and security services to find drugs and weapons, but increasingly they’re also taking on exciting new roles such as in the health and environmental sectors.

“Now, for the first time in the UK, dogs will be on the front line in the battle against Japanese knotweed, helping protect homeowners as well as our fragile native ecosystems.”

Main image courtesy of Environet 

Alessandra Pacelli

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