Citrus greening detection strategies available to Florida citrus growers are getting a boost from man’s best friend: trained dogs.

Dogs have long been companions and helpers in the ag industry, doing everything from helping round up livestock to detecting pests in ag imports. Now, their being used for citrus greening detection, and the information shared in a Citrus Industry article maintains dogs are so good at detecting citrus greening infection in citrus trees, that they have been proven to be the most efficient method. Explore the details below.

Dogs on Citrus Greening Detection Detail

Currently, the only USDA-approved method for detecting trees infected with citrus greening is a DNA-based assay called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. According to the article, the PCR test “detected less than 3 percent of infections at two months, 16 of 30 inoculated trees at 16 months, and 20 out of 30 in 17 months.” The PCR test takes a lot of time, human effort, and cost, making it undesirable as a citrus greening surveillance tool.

Conversely, the trained dogs were found to have a 99% accuracy in detecting the presence of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, the bacteria that causes citrus greening through scent. Agriculture Research Service (ARS) plant epidemiologist, Timothy R. Gottwald, said “We found that, once trained, these dogs were able to identify infected trees within two weeks of the trees being inoculated. The dogs also were able to distinguish the citrus greening pathogen from a variety of other citrus bacterial, viral, fungal and spiroplasma pathogens, including closely related Liberibacter species.”

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