“Every bug has its own smell and dogs will always smell it”

Detecting pests in a large greenhouse can be quite difficult. After all, pests are hard to see and populations are growing rapidly. For this reason, Deanna Kjorlien and her colleagues train dogs to respond to the scent of greenhouse pests. After all, a dog’s nose is sensitive enough to feel the presence of an insect colony, even if it is still too small for the breeder to notice.

Green Dog Pest Service is located near Seattle, Washington, but their projects are not limited to the United States. Their main project is now in Mexico, in a pepper greenhouse. Deanna mainly trains Belgian Malinois because they are very athletic and highly driven. “Most of our dogs are rescues. Belgian Malinois are intelligent and motivated working dogs, which is why this breed can be too much for a family to handle. We train them and provide them with work. However, we also breed other breeds because I believe all dogs can do this job if properly trained.”

K9 alerts to the smell of live Peppercorns in the greenhouse.

K9 warns of live Root Aphids (Rhopalosiphum rufiabdominale) in cannabis in a greenhouse in Canada.

At first, Deanne didn’t start training dogs with greenhouse pests. “We started our detection business ten years ago focusing on household pests such as bed bugs. However, during the pandemic, we moved out of that space to do more. A cannabis grower in Canada contacted me to help them detect root aphids. Around the same time from California A cannabis grower also contacted us about different types of aphids.

The second project began soon after the company asked a Mexican bell pepper farm to help them detect pepper lice with their sniffer dogs. “Even though we were just starting to expand our business into the greenhouse sector, they wanted to try it. So I trained the dogs and they joined the Mexican farm team. I come back every now and then to visit.”

Training the dog
Training a dog to detect greenhouse pests is simpler than it seems. ‘Dogs are trained to seek out the scent of a target species, so they will only alert when they smell a pest they are familiar with and ignore beneficial insects that may be present in the greenhouse. ‘ In addition, the dogs are strictly trained not to touch the plants.

K9 warns of a mini bell pepper with a wild pepper inside during training.

The dogs are always accompanied by a human scout, their handler who will check for the presence of the target insect during the dog’s alert. ‘A dog has a better sense of smell and finds pests in a shorter time, especially when the pest population can still be small. After all, the sooner the pest is detected, the better, because their number is growing rapidly.

Dogs can also be used in quarantine zones for new seedlings. “Dogs are only as good as they can smell, so they won’t easily detect pests on the top of a fully mature tomato plant. That’s why it’s urgent to join forces with a human scout. Dogs offer great help, but they need special settings.”

Deanna trains dogs by presenting them to respond to target insect odors. “We teach them to associate scents with their favorite toys. If the dog picks up the scent, it will slow down and wag its tail, then sit and pinpoint with its nose where it smells the target insect. The scout will then know where to look specifically, and the grower can use beneficial insects to control pests.” can continue doing.”

One of the bugs the company has trained dogs to detect: Cannabis aphids

Endless possibilities
Deanna feels that the possibilities for dogs to help in the fresh produce sector are endless and in fact not limited to greenhouses. “Open fields, flower greenhouses, anything that grows can be affected by pests and diseases, and I have yet to come across a pest or root disease that doesn’t have a specific smell. I see a lot of promise in using dogs for root diseases. It hurts growers in many sectors and the dogs relatively easy to detect.”

Deanna expects the dogs to be common to all breeders. “Early detection is the key to all scouting and dogs are the fastest, most efficient way to detect pests and diseases early before they take hold. Dogs will save commercial growers millions of dollars in both saved yield and labor costs.

Root aphid

For more information:
Green Dog Pest Service
Deanna Kjorlien, ACE
Ca: (951) 790-2847
Wa: (206) 596-2847

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