Main ‘strategies’ for Japanese knotweed removal explained

Japanese knotweed: Phil Spencer discusses plant

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Nic Seal, founder and managing director of Environet, a leading specialist in Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants, has shared the “two main strategies” for removing the plant from properties. However, identifying the plant and knowing you’ve got a Japanese knotweed infestation isn’t always clear. Nic explained: “If the stuff [Japanese knotweed] is growing above ground then it’s obviously identifiable and as soon as someone sees something that they think is knotweed they should see whether it is or isn’t.

“We have identification guides on our website. What we also have is a free service where people can send a photograph of a suspect plant. We will say whether it is knotweed or not.”

Once the plant has been identified, property owners can choose one of “two main strategies” to get rid of the plant.

Nic continued: “One is a herbicide program which would typically take two years of spraying and two years of monitoring.

“It’s a long-term game to try and get rid of it that way.

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“But I would always tell customers thinking of that – this method is just a control method not a removal/eradication method.

“The reason for that is knotweed has this clever ability to go dormant and that dormancy can last for 10 possibly 20 years.”

When knotweed goes dormant, the root system is not dead but is asleep.

Even if the plant is not visible above ground for years, the plant could still come back.

People who use the herbicide method will need to understand there is a risk that the plant could return.

However, there is another option for ousting the plant for good – excavation. Nic said this is the “most robust method” for getting rid of the plant and involves literally digging out the plant and its root system.

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Nic said: “The root systems can typically spread between one to two metres laterally from the visible bit of the plant.

“They can also spread down 1.5 metres possibly two metres deep. It’s hard to imagine the large volumes of soil that needs excavating.

“With the excavation, it’s obviously more expensive but it’s probably a better way of dealing with it.”

Roughly, it costs £2,500 + VAT for a herbicide program with a five-year guarantee.

Excavating the plant could cost three times that amount depending on the size of the plot and how easily the plot can be accessed.

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Nic said having knotweed on a property will “almost certainly have an impact on the value of that property”.

This is because when homeowners come to sell, they will need to declare that the property has been impacted by knotweed.

“More often than not, that will have an impact on the price the buyer is willing to pay,” Nic said.

“That impact on value is greater with a herbicide program than it is with a dig out.

“If you can imagine, you’re looking to buy a property and you hear that it’s still being sprayed, you’re not going to have great confidence that the problem has gone forever.

“If you heard it had been dug out five years ago, and nothing had grown back, I would have far more confidence that the problem had gone away.

“Therefore, as the years go by, the price starts to come back to what it would be as a completely unaffected property.

“That diminution is a far more significant figure than the difference of the price between those two methods. Unless it’s a very cheap property in the middle of nowhere and there’s an awful lot of knotweed there.

“If you’re in London or in a home that’s approaching the £1million+ mark, almost certainly, the dig out method is the right solution.”

Signs of Japanese knotweed:

  • Shovel-shaped leaves with a pointed tip
  • Bamboo-like stems that are hollow
  • Red/purple shoots that look like asparagus spears
  • Leaves growing on alternating sides of the stem so they produce a zig-zag in the stem
  • White clusters of flowers
  • In the autumn, stems turn brown

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