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Irrigation Regime, Fruit Water Congestion and Produce Safety: Parameter Optimization to Reduce Susceptibility of Tomatoes and Peppers to Post-Harvest Contamination, Pathogen Transfer and Proliferation of Salmonella

Bartz, Jerry; Teplitski, Max
University of Florida
Start date
End date
Recent multi-state outbreaks of vegetable-borne gastrointestinal illnesses demonstrate that human pathogens can contaminate produce at any stage of production. The fact that the outbreaks have been sporadic and the uncertainty regarding sources and routes of contamination argue for the possibility that some event(s) during the production cycle make vegetables more susceptible to contamination from environmental sources of pathogens.

We hypothesize that irrigation-determined physical properties of tomatoes and peppers (fruit wetness, fruit water congestion, etc) may make them more vulnerable to contamination from various environmental sources, including transfer from rubber gloves or wiping cloths. Fruit wetness and fruit water congestion also increase susceptibility of vegetables to plant pathogens, and the association with plant pathogens has been well-documented to promote growth of Salmonella in vegetables.

The overall goal of this project is to test how irrigation determined physical properties of tomatoes and peppers affect vulnerability of produce to infections by Salmonella.

Upon completion of this project, we expect to have defined an optimal irrigation regime under which yields are maintained, yet the vulnerability of produce to contamination and proliferation of Salmonella are reduced. Following a successful completion of the first two production seasons, a full scale on-farm demonstration will be carried out.

Funding Source
Center for Produce Safety
Project source
View this project
Project number
Bacterial Pathogens