ECO DOGS USED TO FIND DISEASED PINE TREES
Southern Pine Disease, or Southern Pine Decline, is a root disease of pine trees that has been spreading throughout the southeastern United States. The pine disease is carried from tree to tree by beetles, but unlike Southern Pine Bark Beetle, these beetles attack the roots of pine trees. This makes detection difficult for pine plantation owners and researchers trying to determine the best way to manage the disease. At present, pine plantation owners and researchers have had to wait until obviously infected trees were found on a plantation and then dig around the roots of the tree to find the disease. This method attracted more beetles to the area because the digging stresses pine trees and the beetles are attracted to stressed trees.
Now, Associate Research Professor Lori Eckhardt from Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife is trying a less invasive, and quicker, technique to find trees infected with Southern Pine Disease. Dogs are being trained to sniff out the disease simply by walking through a pine plantation. When the dogs find an infected pine tree they sit down next to the tree. This method quickly lets pine plantation owners know what percentage of their pine trees are infected with Southern Pine Disease. The dogs Lori is using are from Auburns' College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Health and Performance Program.
The Dog Detector program is only in its beginning stages and isn’t a cure for Southern Pine Disease. The program may, however, make it quicker and easier for researchers to find a way to better manage Southern Pine Disease.