We all know that dogs have an amazing sense of smell. With up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in humans, they simply blow humans out of the water when it comes to detecting pretty much any scent.
You’ve certainly seen them at work in airports, sniffing for explosives and illegal drugs. And more recently, they’ve been used to detect precursors to cancer cells, Corona viruses, hitchhiking snakes and mussels, ivory, cattle in heat, and so much more.
Now, add plant pests to the list!
Giving Dogs a Try
Green Dog Pest Service, Inc. of Gig Harbor, Washington, recently used sniffer dogs in a Mexican commercial pepper production greenhouse complex. One of the world’s largest producers of peppers, the company wanted to export their pesticide-free produce throughout North America. However, it struggled to control an insect pest.
The culprit is the pepper weevil (Anthonomus eugenii). It causes flowers and buds to abort and ruins or damages fruits. The company’s fully enclosed, high-tech greenhouses provide as much protection as possible. Still, the weevils, native to central Mexico, still find their way in.
But could dogs find them through their odor and point them out? It turns out they can!
Green Dog trained two Belgian Malinois to detect the pest and let them loose with their K9 handlers in the greenhouses.
At Actually Worked!
“Our client has invested a significant amount into this program without much of a guarantee and we couldn’t be more excited about the results. We knew the dogs could detect the weevils. However, in 15.5-acre greenhouses (6.3 ha), with 200,000 or more plants growing over 4 meters tall, searching for tiny flying insects isn’t easy” said Deanna Sparks-Kjorlien, President of Green Dog Pest Service Inc.
Not easy. Maybe, but they do the job. It turns out the dogs are 70% more efficient at finding the weevils than human scouts.
Perspicacious pooches perceive pungent plant pests!
Green Dog Pest Service, Inc. has been providing canine scent detection services for structural needs for 9 years and has additional agricultural applications beyond the pepper weevil. Sparks-Kjorlien added, “We are starting a multi-species aphid detection program in Canada at a cannabis farm and we are looking into a root disease issue that affects hydroponic commercial growers that we believe will be an excellent application for the dogs. Using the power of canine scent detection, especially within CEA vertical farming, will be a game changer for Integrated Pest Management programs.”
You can read the entire press release here: Dogs sniff for Pepper Weevils in commercial greenhouses.
Your Key to a Successful Garden-Related Career?
I can’t help thinking that an entrepreneurial plant-loving dog aficionado (or dog-loving plant aficionado) might find a career here. Could you train your pooch to sniff out mealybugs, scale insects and aphids and rent out your services locally? Find the pests, squash them (or otherwise dispose of them if squashing is too dramatic) and receive your PayPal payment.
Ah, if only I were 19 again! (Indeed, if only I were 49!)