The BBC Future Planet published an extensive report on the use of dogs’ sense of smell to identify plants infected by Xylella fastidiosa. The “Xylella Detection Dogs” initiative started in Apulia, Italy, in 2020 thanks to the BeXyl Project‘s partner UNAPROL. Building on the success of the experiments on canines’ detecting Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (the bacterium causing “citrus greening” disease) in citrus, BeXyl Project aims at assessing and developing dog-assisted methods to detect early stage, asymptomatic X. fastidiosa infections.
Currently, training activities focus on obedience and sensitization to X. fastidiosa subsp. pauca strain De Donno ST53 (the causal agent of olive quick decline syndrome) cultures on agar plates, using scent boxes and the pairing approach.
In the BeXyl Project frame, new experiments will include training dogs on different olive cultivars, infected and non-infected, symptomatic and non-symptomatic. Researchers will also assess and validate dog performances ‘on the ground’ in nurseries. Finally, specialized diagnostic laboratories participating in the BeXyl Project will evaluate the performance of canine detection compared to standard diagnostics methods.