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Scientists testing whether dogs can detect ohia tree disease


    Ohia trees with a fast-moving fungal infection known as rapid ohia death on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island.

Scientists are testing whether they can train dogs to sniff out a deadly fungus that’s killing Hawaii’s native ohia trees.

U.S. Department of Agriculture research ecologist Kealoha Kinney says it’s a lot like creating an “ohia guard dog.”

Kinney told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald the project aims to determine whether dogs can detect the smell of the rapid ohia death pathogen, how accurate the dogs can be and whether researchers can develop training tools that carry the scent but not the fungus.

A grant from the state Department of Agriculture is funding the project.

Dogs already are used to sniff out a fungus in Florida avocado trees.

Rapid ohia death has killed trees on tens of thousands of acres on the Big Island.

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