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Improving the Safety of Irrigation Water Used for Produce


The long term goal of this research project is to develop sustainable practices to mitigate on-farm food safety risks. Agriculture water is one of the important routes of human pathogen food contamination, and growers must take steps to minimize the risk of produce contamination with source water. The purpose of this project is to develop a non-chemical water treatment system that would not adversely affect the quality and productivity of the crops. The beneficiaries of this project are fruit and vegetable growers utilizing open surface irrigation waterwith a higher risk for pathogen contamination of crops. For example, strawberry farmers in Louisiana pump ground water into ponds on the surface of their farms then use this water for irrigation of strawberries. This project is important and timely as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires fresh produce growers to meet certain microbial levels depending on the risk associated with the water application. The outcome of this project will help develop a water treatment system useful for fresh produce growers to reduce risk associated with agricultural water and to meet the buyers', state, and federal food safety requirements. Specific objectives are as follows:1. Chemically modified zeolite for removing E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella Thypimurium from inoculated pond water.2. Develop a deep-bed filter capable of removing E. coli O157:H7, and Salmonella Typhimurium from irrigation water using surfactant modified zeolite.3. Use of a deep-bed zeolite filter system to control generic E. coli in irrigation water applied to produce in a field setting.

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Produce farmers utilizing open surface irrigation water are at a higher risk for pathogen contamination of crops and are in need of an inexpensive and non-chemical way to remove pathogenic bacteria from irrigation water. We plan on developing a deep-bed zeolite filtration device capable of reducing microbial contamination of irrigation water used for high risk vegetables. Zeolite is a mineral rock that can be modified to enhance the removal of pathogenic bacteria from irrigation water. The objectives of the study are to optimize a deep-bed filter using modified zeolite capable of reducing E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella levels from irrigation water and to test the effectiveness of the filtration system in an actual farming environment. Generic E. coli which is non-pathogenic will be used as an indicator to evaluate the performance of the deep-bed zeolite filter on reducing food safety risks associated with surface irrigation water used for irrigating strawberries. The deep-bed zeolite filter system will provide growers with a method to reduce pathogens in irrigation water and comply with the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule, agricultural water requirements.

Janes, Marlene
Louisiana State University
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