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Labradors become UK’s first dogs to detect Japanese knotweed

A PAIR of Labrador retrievers are the first dogs in Britain trained to sniff out notorious Japanese knotweed.

Clever brothers Mick and Mack can detect the destructive vine thanks to the 300million or so receptors in their noses and the proportion of their brain area dedicated to smell — 40 times larger than a human’s.

It will come as a relief to homeowners moving to a new property as the weed can be very stubborn to clear.

Described by the Environment Agency as ‘indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant’, it can cause extensive damage to property.

It can break through cracks in mortar, brickwork, and joints in concrete, drains, sewers, driveways and even the cavity walls of our homes.

The dogs (pictured) have been specially trained to detect Japanese knotweed stem or roots, even in small quantities hidden beneath the ground.

Japanese knotweed is a weed that spreads rapidly, in the winter the plant dies back to ground level but in the summer the bamboo-like stems emerge from the roots deep underground.

It can reach a staggering 12ft and can be difficult to clear, requiring a lot of determination to remove it by hand or eradicate it with chemicals.

Nic Seal, founder and managing director of knotweed specialist Environet, said: ‘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.

‘An Environet dog detection survey is the only way to say with high certainty that a property or site is clear of knotweed, offering peace of mind to buyers that there will be no nasty surprises further down the line.’

Not so weedy: Japanese knotweed can be very stubborn to clear and is reviled as the UK’s most ‘invasive’ plant PICTURES: SWNS

Mick and Mack can carry out a Japanese knotweed survey much faster and more accurately than a human.

Dog detection is the most precise method available to determine whether knotweed is present and can be carried out at any time of year, including during winter when the plant is dormant beneath the ground.

Japanese knotweed was introduced to the UK from Japan in the 1840s and now thrives in our parks and gardens, along waterways and railways.

It can grow at the incredible rate of 10cm per day to reach up to 3 metres in height by late summer.