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Dogs and Drones Being Used to Save Guacamole

Benito Baeza

MIAMI (AP) — A deadly fungus spread by a beetle has the potential to decimate Florida’s avocado crop, but researchers are testing drones and disease-sniffing dogs as tools to fight the scourge, thus saving the world from a potential dearth of guacamole.

Laurel wilt is carried by an invasive beetle from Asia that’s taken hold in South Florida. It can kill an avocado tree within two months. A $148,000 state grant is funding the Florida International University-University of Florida study involving drones and dogs. Researchers fly drones over the avocado groves and use thermal imaging cameras to discover the location of the stressed tree areas.

Then, researchers deploy dogs specially trained to sniff out the chemical smell of laurel wilt. The sooner farmers and researchers can detect the fungus, the better a tree’s chance for survival.

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