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Spinach plants in soil

We've all heard of people who talk to their plants because they believe it will help them to grow, but now - thanks to a group of scientists in the USA - the plants may be able to talk back.

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a system that uses spinach plants to detect explosive materials such as landmines. When these nanotechnology-enhanced plants notice a specific compound in the groundwater, the carbon nanotubes in the spinach leaves transmit a signal that is picked up by an infrared camera, which in turn sends an email alert to the scientists.

Professor Michael Strano, who's in charge of this project, called it "a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant / human communication barrier". OK, so we won't be having any riveting conversations or illuminating debates with our pals in the plant kingdom any time soon, but this technology could have a number of genuinely groundbreaking applications - in addition to sniffing out explosives, nano-plants could also be taught how to detect pollution, predict droughts, and even warn us about climate change.

Unsurprisingly, the 'scientists teach spinach to send emails' story has struck a chord on social media - it's a trending topic on Twitter right now - but what we want to know is whether MIT's nano-spinach could be used to monitor for invasive plant species like Japanese knotweed. This non-native weed is very good at hiding (small fragments can lie dormant in the soil for years before re-emerging), and while a number of novel approaches to Japanese knotweed detection have emerged in recent years - everything from sniffer dogs to AIs that are trained to spot knotweed in photos - it'd make our job a lot easier if your garden could simply send us an email when signs of Japanese knotweed appeared!

Until your garden plants learn how to detect Japanese knotweed for you, your best bet is to call in the experts from Taylor Total Weed Control. Call 029 2039 7554 today to arrange a free survey.

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