Dogs trained to sniff out phylloxera

A researcher at Melbourne University is training sniffer dogs to detect pests and diseases in vineyards, including the dreaded phylloxera.

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Canines have long been used to detect drugs and explosives, but this latest research could lead to their impressive sense of smell being put to use in the vineyards.

Sonja Needs, a viticulture and animal science researcher at the University of Melborune, is leading research on how to train dogs to sniff out the pest, which feeds on the roots of vines and can wipe out entire vineyards, as reported by Australia’s abc.net

Explaining her belief that it was possible to train any breed to be a sniffer dog, Ms Needs said it was a case of taking a dog already trained in other services, like drug detection, and “flicking their switch” to instead detect vine pests such as phylloxera.

“Once they are trained in detection, it’s a very simple thing to give them another scent and they just work,” Ms Needs said. “And they love it, it’s a fun activity for them and we love doing it because it’s fun for us too.”

Ms Needs hopes her research will reveal what stage dogs are able to detect the life cycle of phylloxera, which could result in early diagnosis and intervention.

“I want to see at what depth, because phylloxera is on the roots inside the soil, so I want to see what depth if the dogs can pick them up at a metre below the surface,” she said. “And if they can it’s going to be an amazingly powerful tool we can use as a detection tool.”

Ms Needs is working with the Victorian Government on the research and hopes to have completed training by the end of 2015.

One Response to “Dogs trained to sniff out phylloxera”

  1. Rod Smith says:

    As the article text makes clear, phylloxera is not a virus…

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