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Dogs trained to sniff out potato crop diseases

Potato growers from the state of Maine might have a quicker way to protect their crops from dangerous diseases, thanks to a passionate dog trainer and her animals. Farmers typically are limited to visual detection of common potato diseases - such as potato virus Y and bacterial ring rot - which is not visible until after potatoes have a serious infection. While potato virus Y is not dangerous for human consumption, it is a virus that farmers seek to detect as early as possible to avoid long-term crop damage and loss.

When Andrea Parish realized that no one had ever tried to teach dogs to detect potato diseases, she decided to become the first to do it: “I knew that if dogs could detect bombs, drugs, cancer or COVID, they could detect anything.”

Parish has traveled to at least a few dozen farms from Oregon to Maine to demonstrate how dogs can stiff and detect all three strains of potato virus Y as well as bacterial ring rot. Through her connections with agricultural researchers and growers, she has also allowed farmers to send potato samples to her for her dogs to test.

A video from shows how, in a matter of minutes, the dogs can sniff the samples and indicate which test tube contains the potato disease. They can also detect the diseases in crop and equipment storage units and in fields.

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