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Die-off Rates of Human Pathogens in Manure Amended Soil under Natural Climatic Conditions using Novel Sentinel Chamber System


Field production of fruits and vegetables, herbs, and herbal products such as ginseng, frequently includes high application rates of organic materials such as manure and compost as part of crop nutrient management. For organic production systems, these are the only fertilizer materials acceptable for use.
Many of currently recommended management practices, such as manure incorporation, are aimed at reducing the nutrient impacts of agriculture on surface and ground waters. However, it is not clear if some of the prescribed practices reduce or enhance risks of pathogen contamination of foods and water. Field studies show some contradictory effects and results are often highly variable because of the compounding issues of pathogen die-off and losses in runoff and/or leaching. The proposed field-based study will use a sentinel chamber (captive population) technique to investigate the die-off of pathogens following land application, as separate from transport issues. This information would identify not only how long pathogens are likely to remain in fields where a food crop is being grown, but also the risk of pathogen transport from one field to another or to an irrigation water source.
The information is critical in formulating recommendations for management practices and assessing their effect on pathogen risk management, and the appropriateness of current recommended harvest withholding periods.
In the proposed field-based study, sentinel chambers will enable the study of confined human pathogen populations exposed to the same field environmental conditions as the surrounding soil matrix. The study builds on a previous and an on-going study examining pathogen die-off rates under various manure storage management systems.
The proposed study examines the effect of alternate application practices (seasonal timing and surface or incorporated application) on captive and bulk soil microbial populations, thus separating survival from transport factors to better inform the evaluation of recommended management practices. The project will be carried out by a consortium that includes academics (Drs. K. Dunfield and K. Warriner (UofG), industry (Soil Resource Group) and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (OMAFRA). The deliverables from the research will be data to predict the die-off of relevant pathogens under contrasting conditions. Such data can be applied directly for improving manure management and thereby directly enhancing the food safety of fresh produce.

Warriner, Keith
University of Guelph
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