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Thread: Chili the wonder dog saves bell peppers

  1. #1
    Super Moderator twitchy2.0's Avatar
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    Default Chili the wonder dog saves bell peppers

    Chili the wonder dog is a farmer's best friend

    Nature Fresh has trained a Belgian shepherd to sniff out the pepper weevil, a tiny bug that can wipe out a crop of peppers.

    Belgian shepard Chili is the first dog in the world to sniff out a pesky weevil which hides in bell peppers. (HANDOUT)

    Chili, on patrol with her handler, Tina Hyde, sniffs out an annoying weevil that can destroy bell peppers growing in Leamington, Ont., geenhouses. (HANDOUT)

    By SONIA DAYGardening
    Fri., Oct. 27, 2017

    Meet Chili, wonder dog — and friend to farmers.
    This Belgian shepherd with the big, lolling pink tongue is living proof of the oft-voiced claim that “you can train a dog to do anything.”
    That’s because Chili, a female, is the first of her ilk in the entire world to develop the ability to sniff out a nasty little bug called Anthonomus eugenii.
    Commonly known as the pepper weevil, the tiny bug attacks greenhouse-raised bell peppers by burrowing inside them and laying eggs. And it is so good at hiding itself, a burgeoning crop can quickly be wiped out.

    But not anymore. Not since the debut of Commando Chili last July. With her handler, Tina Hyde, this co-operative, lovable canine now spends her days patrolling 53 hectares of massive greenhouses belonging to corporate giant Nature Fresh in Leamington, Ont. And when her sensitive wet nose picks up the presence of the dreaded pepper destroyer, she plonks her butt down on the greenhouse floor and looks pointedly at Hyde. That’s the cue for other staff to immediately step in and eradicate the bugs.
    “She’s working out very well,” reports a relieved Cam Lyons, of Nature Fresh. “This weevil arrived in Canada on some peppers imported from Mexico and we were desperate to find a solution, because the weevil is as cunning as a fox. It’s potentially a death sentence for our own crops and for other growers. But we couldn’t find a beneficial bug strong enough to combat it.”

    Frustrated, Lyons kept on looking and finally hit on the idea of a sniffer dog, because they’re now routinely employed to smell out hidden drugs and bombs.
    “Dogs are very intelligent animals,” he says, “so I thought ‘Why not?’ ”

    Why not indeed. Lyons contacted Sid Murray, an animal trainer in Welland, Ont., who’d had great success with persuading pooches to pick up the scent of bed bugs. And in only eight weeks of work with Chili, he did much the same thing regarding those worrying weevils. In fact, she got the hang of the job quickly.
    In essence, what Murray did was treat looking for the weevils as a game, by repeatedly burying a few of them (supplied by Lyons) in a toy called a Kong. And all dogs love Kongs. So to Chili, locating one with weevils inside it spelled fun. This is what now happens in the greenhouses. She associates discovering those weevils with something she enjoys, so happily seeks them out.

    Handler Hyde, who’s a “biological scout” dealing with a variety of pests for Nature Fresh, enjoys this pretend game, too.
    “I like working with animals,” she says. “It was a bit up and down at first, as we both had to get used to each other’s little quirks and habits. But I’m now very comfy with Chili.”
    They patrol the greenhouses together in stints lasting about an hour and a half. Then Chili takes a rest, so she doesn’t get too hot or tired. Then they start again. She also goes home with Hyde at night to a nearby town. But she sleeps separately from Hyde’s three pets — two cats and another pooch — because, as a working dog, she may lose her magic touch with the weevils if treated like a pet.

    And she has earned impressive credentials. The American Working Dog Association certified Chili as the first dog to carry out “pest-related scent detection on a farm” — a ruling which allows her to move freely among the pepper plants without any food safety concern.
    So is this the way of the future — man’s best friend playing a role in commercial greenhouse operations everywhere?

    Could be. So many growers in Ontario have embraced biological controls for pests that workers brandishing sprayers of choking chemical pesticides are becoming a thing of the past.
    Little packets and boxes containing beneficial insects are taking over instead. Visit a greenhouse today and you’ll see these devices pinned to or placed underneath the soaring plants that produce fresh foodstuffs for us such as peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. Often bumble bees are buzzing about too, to help with pollination.
    What an encouraging sign this is.

    Honey and dexter7 like this.
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  2. #2
    Elite Member Brookie's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
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    Fear no weevil, for thou art with me..............
    dexter7 likes this.
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