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12 июня 2018, 20:14

Man’s Best Friend Now Avocado Industry’s Best Friend

Stay on target

Sniffer dogs can ferret out explosives, illegal drugs, wildlife, and a possible solution to a serious issue in the horticultural industry.

Researchers at Florida International University evaluated scent-discriminating canines for the detection of laurel wilt-affected wood from avocado trees.

The vascular disease, caused by fungus transmitted by the invasive redbay ambrosia beetle, is fast-spreading and difficult to contain; it has killed more than 300 million laurel trees in the US alone.

Avocado (Florida’s second-largest tree crop behind citrus) is probably the most commercially valuable plant affected by laurel wilt.

The disease has already decimated the industry in South Florida, and two larger avocado businesses in California and Mexico have taken notice, according to co-authors Julian Mendel, Kenneth Furton, and DeEtta Mills.

As with any ailment—human or otherwise—early detection is key to fending off widespread infection.

But while most people rely on doctors and high-tech medical equipment to catch an internal killer, farmers are putting their faith in our four-legged friends.

Taking a cue from other industries, in which dogs have demonstrated the ability to expose spotted knapweed, brown tree snakes, desert tortoises, and various cancers, FIU trained three pups—three-year-old Belgian Malinois Cobra and two Dutch Shepherds—to track down laurel wilt.

(Spoiler alert: The tail-waggers fared extremely well, producing only 12 false alerts in 229 trials.)

“It is the best ‘technology’ so far that can detect a diseased tree before external symptoms are visible,” Mills said of dogs’ noses.

“The old saying that ‘dogs are man’s best friend’ reaches far beyond a personal bond with their handler and trainer,” she continued. “It is depicted in their excitement every day as they deploy to the groves. Man’s best friend may even help save an industry.”

There is no word on when this technique will be ready to roll out across ailing avocado crops.

Read more about the study in the latest issue of the journal HortTechnology .

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Source: https://www.geek.com/science/mans-best-friend-now-avocado-industrys-best-friend-1742743/?source=science