The Italians are using the powerful noses of dogs to detect latest outbreaks of Xylella fastidiosa before symptoms occur.
The Puglia-based task force in Southern Italy comprises six dogs: two Jack Russells, a Belgian Shepherd, a bloodhound, a Labrador retriever and a springer spaniel.
They started in June 2021 with dogs that were already expert detectors and then trained them over months using hundreds of samples of plant odours to have an idea as precise as possible about the smell of infected plants. The dogs will be used at nurseries and areas where plants are imported – ports and airports – to identify infected plants before the appearance of recognisable symptoms.
What is Xylella fastidiosa? It’s an insect spread bacterial pathogen, currently having devasting impact across horticultural industries in both Europe and the USA. We know it can infect many different plants, both natives and important crops, but we don’t quite yet know the full scale of potential damage if it got into New Zealand.
While Xylella fastidiosa has an incredibly wide host range comprising more than 350 species, the good news is that there are no reports of it affecting kiwifruit, although there is some uncertainty about kiwifruit’s host status so KVH has kept engaged in readiness activities for the kiwifruit industry. Read more about KVH’s work advancing research and readiness efforts, and how you can keep an eye out, here.