In their constant battle to bring wine to market, some Northern California grape growers are enlisting the noses of Golden Retrievers to sniff out vine mealybugs that can ruin valuable crops. The idea is that if dogs can find the small, secretive yet very potent bugs in their early stages, growers can stop them before they develop advanced infestations. According to the article on MSNBC, growers have to use some powerful pesticides to kill the mealybugs. The earlier growers can catch the infestations, the lower the amount of pesticides they can use to solve the problem.
The growers in Rutherford, California say they could never make or find a machine that could be nearly as effective as dogs. This is from the article:
So far, dogs have been taught to identify the female mealybug pheromone and recently made the leap to identifying a piece of infected stock, much trickier since it meant dealing with competing, real-life smells such as mold and wood.
A third of their brain is their olfactory system. There is no machine that can detect odor anywhere near their capabilities, says Bonnie Bergin, founder of the Assistance Dog Institute in Santa Rosa, which is conducting training for the dogs.
Here’s a toast to some talented Retrievers!