2023 - Volume #47, Issue #2, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Dogs Sniff Out Spud Diseases“The government has spent billions of dollars during the past 50 years searching for a better way to detect bombs and they still haven’t found a better system than the nose of a dog,” says Andrea Parish, professional dog trainer and owner of Nose Knows Scouting of Dayton, Wyo.
Instead of bombs, Parish has trained her dogs to detect Potato Virus Y (PVY) and bacterial ring rot in potatoes. Her dogs detect the presence of disease days or weeks before its visual symptoms show up and cause economic loss.
She started her business in 2019 and now travels with her dogs, from Washington to Maine, sniffing out diseased potatoes in storage facilities and on conveyor belts. The dogs can also find infected plants in fields. “We can run 40 acres of crops that have zero percent of disease in 20 minutes,” she says, adding that one of her dogs can detect an infected 1-in. potato plant from 80 feet away.
Her largest job to date was to detect and remove PVY-infected potato tubers out of 80,000 lbs. of seed potatoes.
Parish trains her dogs to be “one-percenters”, which is the rare ability to go to work and love the work, hour after hour. One of her most popular training tools is the common tennis ball, which trainers use to create positive reinforcement for the dogs. Parish says, “We train the dogs from an early age so that being rewarded with the tennis ball becomes the most important thing in the world to the dog.”
Most of Parish’s work has involved detecting potato diseases because she knew many people in the potato industry, so it was a good place to start. However, she’s been encouraged by researchers in other crop areas and is training dogs to detect red-blotch virus in grapes and fire blight in apple orchards.
Parish says her primary goal with Nose Knows Scouting is to train her dogs to give farmers another tool to control disease in a timely, cost-effective way.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Nose Knows Scouting (ph 214-517-9095; www.noseknowsscouting.com).
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