Detection dogs show promise in finding citrus diseases

01/01/2012 01:00:00 AM
By Jerry Jackson

“For greening, it would be really helpful,” Schacht says, “because it’s even harder to spot [visually] than canker.”

USDA researchers are not as far along with their work on greening detection as with canker, in part because of the technical challenges in establishing positive and negative plants for training and testing the dogs.

There are many other challenges as well.

Dogs tend to report more false positives for canker than false negatives. And in at least some cases of false positives—dogs indicating canker when the test-tree was known to be disease free—researchers later determined that a canker-infected tree was once on the site.

In enclosed areas, such as a citrus packinghouse, the dogs have been particularly adept at detecting even individual pieces of fruit that have canker. Still, their accuracy diminishes rapidly if the dogs get too hot and begin panting.

“It’s still not ready for prime time,” Gottwald says of citrus pest detector dogs as a commercially viable technique. “We need a lot more data and we need to see all of the caveats."

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Johann Rossouw    
Tzaneen South Africa  |  February, 01, 2012 at 12:44 AM

I have been thinking along this route now for a couple of years, and every time I go through a customs service at an airport where dogs are used I keep wondering about "dog scouts" on citrus farms. How easy would it be to optimise exports to sensitive markets if a dog can detect a fruit infested with citrus black spot in a carton . I am going to watch this space with interest!

Pepe Peruyero    
Gainesville fl.  |  March, 17, 2013 at 07:10 PM

Just came across your comment and would to advise you that we are currently developing dogs to detect HLB and have applied to a grant for Black Spot we will be working with Meagan Dewdry with UF. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to learn more. J&K Canine Academy Inc. 386-454-3647

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