Magazine article USA TODAY

Researchers Workiing to Make Food Crops Safe

Magazine article USA TODAY

Researchers Workiing to Make Food Crops Safe

Article excerpt

Since 1998, more than 4,000,000 foodborne illnesses have been attributed to vegetables contaminated by a pathogenic microorganism, leading to more than 300 deaths. When water contaminated with pathogens--any infectious agent such as a virus, bacterium, or parasite that can cause disease--is used to irrigate produce, these pathogens can attach to the surface of produce or potentially be taken up by the roots into the edible plant.

A research team from the University of Arizona, Tucson, is focusing on identifying the best strategies for monitoring irrigation water quality and the development of guidelines for the irrigation of food crops. Most of this work is being conducted in Yuma, the principal U.S. region responsible for the winter production of leafy greens such as lettuces and spinach. In addition, the team is expanding the geographical research to include irrigation systems in Imperial Valley, Calif., and Maricopa, Ariz., thereby increasing the agricultural impact and relevance for more farmers. …

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