Dogs trained to detect clubroot in canola fields

Dogs have been trained to sniff out drugs or track down criminal suspects. But a trial this year saw a pair of dogs taught how to look for canola plants with clubroot.

To find the disease, you have to pull a plant and examine the roots for galls, which can be a time-consuming process.

Michael Harding is an agriculture research scientist with the Alberta government. He wanted to see if a dog with its keen sense of smell could do the job more quickly.

“Training a scent animal to basically see under the ground with its nose and then alert us to the places in the field where the clubroot pathogen was causing symptoms on the canola root,” explained Harding.

It took several months to train the dogs to distinguish the clubroot scent. They went to Alberta in September and were fairly successful in their efforts during field trials.

While not perfect, the dogs were able to pinpoint areas in the field affected by clubroot.

“Based on the clinical work and the field testing we did, it was pretty clear that dogs can certainly be trained to help us find this disease.”

Harding said the next step is to see if the dogs can detect resting clubroot spores in the soil.


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