(11/19/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — A team of LSU AgCenter scientists is developing a new educational program for Louisiana fruit and vegetable farmers to help them reduce the food safety risk associated with using raw animal or plant waste as soil amendments.
Produce growers use these materials to improve the chemical and physical properties of the soil on their farms, said AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari, who is leading the team.
Animal waste includes cattle manure, poultry litter, swine slurry and horse manure. They are a rich source of nutrients that support crop growth. But if left untreated, animal manure may harbor human pathogens, including E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella.
If these materials are used on the farm, they may contaminate harvestable parts of the fruits and vegetables, increasing the food safety risks.
“Therefore, it is essential for the growers to adopt an appropriate manure treatment or composting practice to maintain food safety in fresh produce production,” Adhikari said.
The AgCenter has developed and validated several on-farm composting methods.
“We will use the results from our on-farm studies to develop and deliver hands-on training, tools and resources for fresh produce growers who rely on biological soil amendments of animal origin,” he said.
The Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule has recommended standards for the use of raw animal manure or compost on produce farms with examples of valid composting methods to meet the criteria. The AgCenter team will use them to develop a curriculum on proper use of biological soil amendments and provide a basic training program for growers.
The project will include participants from the LSU AgCenter, Southern University Ag Center, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association as well as representatives of composters, local food hubs, and other non-governmental and community-based organizations.
The program is funded by a grant of $199,000 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture