Questions & Answers about Salmonella PART 1

Published by permission from The National Chicken Council. originally printed May 12, 2015.

Food safety is the top priority for companies that produce and process chicken products in the United States, and the industry prides itself on delivering safe, affordable and wholesome food both domestically and abroad.  Chicken producers continue to meet food safety challenges head-on and have done an outstanding job of improving the microbiological profile of raw products.

Who oversees and regulates chicken processing plants?   The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that is responsible for inspection at broiler chicken processing facilities (those facilities that process chickens for meat).  The U.S. meat and poultry inspection system complements industry efforts to ensure that the nation’s commercial supply of meat and poultry products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. Rigorous food safety standards are applied to all chicken products produced in the United States, and all imported chicken products must also meet these federal standards.  All chicken products must meet or exceed these safety standards set forth by FSIS in order to reach American consumers.  By law, a chicken plant cannot operate without FSIS inspectors on site.

What is HACCP?  Since 1996, the meat and poultry industries have been operating under Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).  Originally developed for NASA to ensure the safety of food provided for astronauts in outer space, HACCP is a systematic, science-based and preventive approach to food safety that addresses potential biological, chemical and physical contamination of food products. Written HACCP plans consist of measures to protect the food from unintentional contamination at critical control points.  HACCP is used in the meat and poultry industry as a preventative approach to identify potential food safety hazards so that key actions can be taken to reduce or eliminate these risks. All plants must also, by law, maintain written Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures to maintain the cleanliness and sanitation in food processing environment. FSIS inspectors continuously ensure that HACCP plans and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures are being followed.

What is Salmonella?  Salmonella are microscopic living organisms found worldwide in cold- and warm-blooded animals and occur naturally in birds’ intestines.  Salmonella may be present in a perfectly healthy bird with no negative health effects.

Are all types of Salmonella created equal?  No.  There are more than 2,000 different strains of Salmonella, the majority of which are not harmful to humans.  Most of these Salmonella strains do not make consumers sick if exposed to them.

What are chicken producers doing to make sure they don’t end up on chicken products?  Proper handling and cooking in the kitchen is the last step in keeping Salmonella off of chicken, not the first. It all starts even before the egg.  Healthy breeder flocks lead to healthy chicks – measures are taken to prevent diseases from passing from hen to chick and to ensure that natural antibodies are passed on, which help keep the birds healthy. At the hatchery, strict sanitation measures and appropriate vaccinations ensure the chicks are off to a healthy start.

At the feed mill, the finished feed of corn and soybean meal is heat treated, which kills any bacteria that may be present.  On the farm, farmers adhere to strict biosecurity measures and the chickens are routinely monitored by a veterinarian to keep them healthy. At processing plants, the U.S. federal meat and poultry inspection system complements efforts by chicken processors to ensure that the nation’s commercial supply of meat and poultry products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. Chicken processing facilities use a variety of strategies at key points that include: written HACCP plans; the use of food-grade rinses that kill or reduce the growth of bacteria; organic sprays to cleanse the chickens and inhibit bacteria; strict sanitation procedures; and metal detectors to make sure that no foreign object makes its way into a product. Microbiological tests for pathogens are then conducted by companies and federal laboratories to help ensure that food safety systems are working properly.

Are these processes working?  What does the data show?  According to the most recent government data available: 98.5% of tests for Salmonella are negative for whole chickens at large plants. Chicken producers have reduced Salmonella on whole chickens 66% over the past five years. Since FSIS began testing chicken for Campylobacter in 2011, the industry has reduced the incidence by 30 percent. Americans on average eat about 160 million servings of chicken every day, almost all of them eaten safely.

Those tests are for whole chickens.  What about chicken parts?  FSIS will soon be implementing a first ever performance standard for chicken parts, e.g. legs, breasts and wings, as part of its Salmonella Action Plan. Since the fall of 2013, the entire chicken industry has been collectively exploring new approaches and technologies to reduce contamination on chicken parts in order to provide the safest product possible to our consumers, including strengthened sanitation programs, temperature controls and various interventions in chicken processing. This is something the industry has been proactively working to address, and the industry is committed to working with FSIS to make implementation of the performance standards for chicken parts a success for the industry, and most importantly, consumers.

What are performance standards?  FSIS requires poultry establishments to meet Salmonella performance standards as a means of verifying that production systems are effective in controlling contamination by this pathogenic organism. Agency inspection personnel conduct Salmonella testing in poultry establishments to verify compliance with the Salmonella standard.

What are some actions that FSIS may take if inspectors document food safety problems at a chicken plant? FSIS procedures/rules of practice are clear.  FSIS can and will take enforcement action, which can include anything from suspension of inspection to referral for criminal prosecution for serious and/or recurring violations. All FSIS in-plant inspectors are authorized to issue noncompliance records (NRs) anytime they see a violation, and plants are expected to promptly take corrective action to address the problem. If FSIS remains unsatisfied that the situation has been addressed, the agency can intensify inspection or take other regulatory action. For repeated alleged violations, FSIS conducts Food Safety Assessments and issues Notices of Intended Enforcement (NOIEs) actions, which can result in regulatory action including suspension of inspection.  FSIS compliance activity continues to intensify if changes are not realized. If inspection is suspended, a plant cannot operate under federal law. If a pathogen (or any hazard) is reasonably likely to occur in the absence of additional controls, plants are required to identify and address them in their HACCP plans. Although FSIS does not have the authority to enforce performance standards that are not based on food safety/sanitation, FSIS is in the process of setting standards for several product categories and will make public those plants failing to achieve those standards.  And again, as in the case of NR issuance, FSIS will intensify inspection and take other regulatory action where warranted. FSIS can take action to suspend inspection with evidence of insanitary conditions or shipment of adulterated products. Through mandatory reporting by establishments of adulterated or misbranded product, CDC monitoring of illness outbreaks, and the agency’s own routine in-plant and in-commerce surveillance, FSIS is readily able to identify and respond to potential food-safety situations.

Is it true that 80% of the chicken sold in the U.S is “chicken parts?” According to the National Chicken Council, 11 percent are marketed as whole chickens, 40 percent parts (raw breasts, wings, drumsticks, etc.), and 49 percent further processed/value added. The latter includes nuggets, strips, patties, and other fully cooked products that contain chicken. FSIS has zero tolerance for certain pathogens, including Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, in cooked and ready-to-eat products, such as chicken franks, lunch meat and fully cooked nuggets and strips.


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How to Manage Poultry in Hot Weather

Published by permission from The Poultry Times. c/o N/A originally printed 4/7/2016.

Written by Gillan Ritchie

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Summer is a few months away but it is time for poultry producers to watch temperatures and the effects that warmer weather will have on their flocks. Hot weather can affect poultry flocks and how they perform. Birds typically experience heat stress when the temperature rises above 80 degrees F; effects become more apparent when the temperature rises above 85 degrees F. When a bird experiences heat stress, the bird will begin to pant and physiological changes within its body will help eliminate excessive heat. By practicing proper heat management, poultry producers will be able to keep their birds comfortable and maintain growth; hatchability; egg size, shell quality and production. Birds will start to dissipate body heat from the wattles, shanks and the unfeathered areas under the wings when temperatures rise above mid- to upper 90s. Poultry do not sweat and must dissipate body heat to maintain a body temperature of 105°F. Normal behavior, feed intake and metabolism are not altered drastically when the bird maintains its body temperature through heat loss.

Poultry house ventilation helps birds maintain a proper body temperature by sensible heat loss.   Methods for sensible heat loss include radiation, conduction and convection, which are effective methods when the temperature ranges from 55 degrees F to 75 degrees F. However, once temperatures rise above 77 degrees F, the method for heat loss shifts to evaporative heat loss. Birds will dissipate body heat by panting, which occurs once temperatures reach 80 degrees F. When a bird pants during evaporative heat loss, the heat is removed through the evaporation of water of the moist lining of the respiratory tract. Panting though, generates more heat, and causes birds to eliminate water from their body. Evaporative heat loss becomes the primary method by which birds regulate their body temperature during the summer months unless proper steps to reduce heat stress are taken. Heat stress can be reduced by maintaining a grass cover around the poultry house to help reduce the reflection of sunlight into the house. The vegetation should also be trimmed to avoid blocking any air movement.

Trees can be planted, but ensure that they are in areas that don’t restrict air movement. Make clean and cool water available to the birds; electrolytes can be added to the water source to help replace those lost during periods of heat stress. Provide adequate ventilation and air circulation for the nesting boxes. To read more about the signs of heat stress, Pennsylvania State University Extension offers more information at

poultry times

California State University to receive part of $2.3-million grant to combat downy mildew in vegetables

Published by permission from AG Professional Magazine. c/o Farm Journal Media originally printed 6/6/2016.

Written By Michigan State University May 06, 2016

Downy mildew, a fungus-like pathogen, represents one of the greatest threats to American vegetable crops. After nearly 120 years as a relatively rare, easily managed crop disease, downy mildew surged in 2004 — devastating cucurbit crops throughout southeastern United States. The disease spread into Michigan and the Midwest the following year, and has been a serious problem ever since. More than 2.6 million acres, representing approximately $7.5 billion in high-value crops, are affected each year by downy mildew.

Controlling the disease has become a high priority for researchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has awarded Michigan State University and collaborators at six other universities a four-year, $2.3 million grant to develop management plans for downy mildew.

MSU AgBioResearch plant pathologist Mary Hausbeck (picture) is the lead on the grant project. She has been helping Michigan vegetable growers battle downy mildew for the past 10 years. The threat has risen in recent years as the pathogen has developed resistance to many formerly effective fungicides, she said.

“Each year in Michigan, it becomes more difficult to grow cucumbers,” said Hausbeck, university distinguished professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and MSU Extension specialist. “We’re the No. 1 state for cucumbers for pickling, but this pathogen makes every year a challenge to grow them successfully.”

Hausbeck and her colleagues have formed a multistate research group uniting plant pathologists, plant breeders, social scientists and economists in efforts to develop advanced tactics for growers to confront downy mildew. They will work to enhance and refine early detection methods that allow growers to identify the pathogen’s presence in the air even before it infects fields and becomes a problem. Current early detection practices are labor-intensive and do not provide growers with real-time updates.

Recent advances in genomics and molecular biology will allow the group to design and implement improved diagnostic and forecasting tools to identify and track the pathogen. Plant breeders will also work on developing and testing new downy mildew-resistant varieties of cucumbers, basil and spinach, some of the most threatened crops.

A nationwide outreach program will also work to deliver the group’s findings to growers through regularly updated web-based tools and talks with growers and other industry stakeholders. A coordinated summer internship program will train a diverse group of undergraduate students, educating the next generation of growers, plant researchers and outreach specialists.

“By sharing our expertise, we’re going to have a team capable of addressing the various aspects of this pathogen, rather than each of us working by ourselves,” Hausbeck said. “We want to provide growers with better diagnostic tools and management strategies which will reduce the risk of downy mildew and improve the security of these crops. I know we can improve what we’ve been doing, and these new resources and the expertise of this team will let us do that.”

Slowing the advance of downy mildew in Michigan is especially critical to the state’s food industry.

“East of the Mississippi, we tend to have humid conditions and plenty of rainfall,” Hausbeck said. “That’s a good growing climate, but it’s also an inviting climate for diseases. If we can’t control them, that means we’ll have to start sourcing our vegetables from farther west. I think consumers would rather have their cucurbits and basil locally grown.”

In addition to MSU, the University of Florida, Oregon State University, Rutgers University, Cornell University, California State University and North Carolina State University, as well as the USDA Agricultural Research Service, are participating in the grant project.

AG professional


The following alert was sent out to citrus packinghouses warning them of impending Global Food Safety audit failures when facilities aren’t using a wash water-anti-microbial sanitizer in recirculated fungicide flood systems. Any compatibility issue is addressed by Primus Auditing Ops by their recommendation of PAA products such as SaniDate.


Dear Primus Auditing Ops Customer,

We would like to clarify the expectation of the audit requirements, for both PrimusGFS and PrimusLabs Standard GMP audit schemes, for citrus packinghouses, specifically regarding the use of recirculated water systems with various additives at different steps in the process. Additives include soaps, fungicides and coatings such as carnauba and shellac/resin used to control dehydration. While it has been an accepted standard for there to be wash water sanitizers in the initial recirculated wash steps, there has been concern that the recirculated fungicide flood systems are not being treated with an anti-microbial/wash water sanitizer. As with any system using recirculated water there is an opportunity for cross contamination unless the water is being treated with an anti-microbial. There are many fungicide treatments available and research has shown that they are compatible with standard anti-microbial wash water sanitizers such as perxoyacetic acid (PAA). Packinghouses can work with their chemical provider in making their anti-microbial choices but know that there are sanitizers that are compatible with all fungicides currently commercially available.

We have instructed our auditors to consider an automatic failure when no antimicrobial is being used in a recirculated wash system at any step in the citrus packing process due to the opportunity for cross contamination. This includes at the fungicide flood system step. Our goal is to ensure this requirement is fully communicated with our clients in the citrus industry. Do not hesitate to contact our QA Department ( or 805.623.5563) with any questions.

Manuel Campos Joins BioSafe Systems as Technical Agronomist



BioSafe Systems is pleased to welcome Manuel Campos to the Agriculture sales team as a Technical Agronomist, starting May 2. Campos’ territory includes Mexico and he will be based in Weslaco, TX. With a focus on pre-and post-harvest…

BioSafe Systems is pleased to welcome Manuel Campos to the Agriculture sales team as a Technical Agronomist, starting May 2. Campos’ territory includes Mexico and he will be based in Weslaco, TX. With a focus on pre-and post-harvest, he will spearhead sales goals to establish consistent, direct communication with strategic distribution partners, growers/packers and market influencers.

In his role, Campos will work to increase market penetration and sales of BioSafe Systems’ crop protection, water treatment and food safety solutions. He will focus his efforts on establishing a strong, lasting rapport with distributors and providing technical support to our loyal customers while establishing relationships with new customers.

Campos has a Bachelor’s degree in Crop Protection and Master’s degree in Entomology from Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, as well as a Ph.D. in Entomology from Oklahoma State University. Campos has spent much of his career in research, most recently working at Texas A&M AgriLife Research conducting diverse experiments on different pests affecting vegetables for several leading agrochemical industries.

“I’m excited to become part of an industry-leading company focused on the biopesticide market. It’s always been part of my personal goals to work with sustainable products that are becoming more and more important in the crop protection segment,” says Campos.


Vegetable crop pests you need to know

Published by permission from Country Folks Grower Magazine. c/o Lee Publications originally printed 3/18/2016.

Written by George Looby

Recently the UConn Extension team of Jude Boucher, Extension Educator and Joan Allen, Assistant Extension Educator serving as plant pathologist presented informative sessions designed to bring growers up to speed regarding the latest in control measures against the wide range of pests.

The common spotted asparagus beetle was the first pest covered. One rule that applies across all species and varieties is to maintain a high level of sanitation in the garden. Old plant material and debris should be cleaned up and disposed of. Depending on the particular plant material involved, some may be composted, but if it is infected with a pest with a long life cycle it is important not to compost. It is important to know the life cycle of the pest being discarded. If you’re not familiar help is available through the staff of your local extension.

Cabbage is a member of the Brassica family and as such is afflicted by several moths that give rise to caterpillars that render the heads unsalable due to the unsightly holes in the leaves. Scouting is the term used for visually inspecting all plantings to insure that there is no evidence of pest damage. Any evidence of abnormal activity should prompt the inspector to take immediate action and initiate control measures. Those operators with organic programs need to develop a sense of what their customer base will tolerate in the way of visible damage before looking for alternative markets. The use of selective insecticides is helpful to avoid harming the natural enemies of the pest involved.

The cucurbits are a most important family of plants including cucumbers and squash and they are prone to a variety of problems that include mildews, beetles, borers and wilts. From the standpoint of broad overall preventative management, it seems that trickle irrigation is by far the preferred method of watering, wet leaves are an invitation to a host of problems. Good air circulation goes hand in hand with good irrigation practices, in the absence of moisture many fungal problems become less of an issue. Jude strongly suggested that Phytophthora blight is the worst problem in this group of plants. It appears as a flour-like growth on fruits and vines progressing to fruit rot and vine collapse. One of the characteristics that make it difficult to manage is that it can survive as resting spores for up to 10 years in the soil. A good preventative program should include crop rotation, avoiding any areas where water might tend to accumulate even for short periods of time. Water control at all levels is critical to the management of this pest. Soil applied fungicides can be incorporated into the control program depending on the severity of the problem.

Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops grown and probably one of the more closely watched of any. Crop rotation remains one of the most cost effective practices that can be used to prevent any number of problems. Early blight can be less of a problem if this practice is employed. Pruning and weed control can assist the plant in directing needed nutrients to the fruit and in addition allow for good air circulation — so important in preventing air borne diseases on the plant. Late blight in tomatoes can be one of the most devastating plant diseases. In the matter of a few days all of the plants in a plot can be wiped out along with all of the profit. At the first sign of any suspected late blight the information should be forwarded to Extension so the information can be widely disseminated quickly. All suspect foliage should be destroyed and not composted. Samples should be forwarded to a diagnostic lab for confirmation. Keep potato plantings as far as possible from tomatoes and use only locally grown transplants. There are a number of fungicides available on the market that will aid in the control of this aggressive fungus.

Sweet corn is probably the most widely grown vegetable crop in New England and certainly contributes greatly to overall vegetable farm income. UConn has developed an action scale that signals when spraying should begin based on the amount of infestation observed on the ears and the species of worm being observed.

The onion thrip overwinters as either an adult or in the nymph stage. It grows rapidly from egg to adult and feeds at the base of the leaves, which makes reaching them with sprays difficult. It is interesting that plant resistance to this pest is based on color with red onions most susceptible, yellow intermediate and white the most resistant.

Basil is an increasingly popular crop widely favored by gourmet chefs. This crop can be highly lucrative when grown to meet the needs of the trade but it too can have its problems. Downy mildew can be seed borne so heat-treating the seed is a useful tool in prevention.

Beets, chard and spinach have some pests that affect their growth and their salability. Included in this group are Cercospora leaf spot, flea beetles and leafminers. Among the control measures suggested for the leafminer is a biological control in the form of a wasp parasitoid. Highly specialized insects, often wasps are increasingly used for the control of several plant pests. Great care is taken in the evaluation of these insects to insure that their beneficial attributes far outweigh any potential harm they might do where they are newly introduced. For those producers who operate under organic standards kaolin clay, pyrethrin and Azadirachtin are suggested as control materials.

The meeting served to provide those in attendance with a strong platform on which to build a good pest control program.

Country Folks Growe

BioSafe proudly welcomes Bob Freeborn into the Family!

EAST HARTFORD, CT, May 2 – BioSafe Systems announces a new sales agent agreement with Robert Freeborn to represent BioSafe Systems in the municipal and commercial water and wastewater industry marketplace. Freeborn holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the State University College at Buffalo. He has spent the majority of his career servicing both private industry and municipalities in the water and wastewater field.

Freeborn brings with him a great deal of knowledge and experience with peracetic acid, also known as peroxyacetic acid or PAA.  His research into PAA reactions has set new industry performance standards in more than 25 states.  Freeborn introduced federal, regional and local EPA and regulatory agencies to this true “green” chlorine alternative for disinfection as well as trained them and provided technical water consulting for the municipalities in pretreatment, solids removal, conditioning, filtration and disinfection.

“We are very excited about our new partnership with Bob Freeborn,” stated Rob Larose, CEO of BioSafe Systems. “The development of PAA applications within the industrial and municipal water and wastewater industry is a natural fit for BioSafe Systems and we are confident about providing alternatives to chlorine within this market space.”

For more information contact BioSafe Systems at 888.273.3088 toll-free or visit

Landscape Insect Control: Tweaks & Combos

Published by permission from Landscape Management. c/o North Coast Media originally printed 7/9/2015.

Written by Lauren Dowdle

Regulations and lack of new chemistry are driving changes to insecticide product offerings.

After a few slow years without major changes, the insecticide market is starting to experience an overhaul to meet new government requirements. But these guidelines aren’t the only changes lawn care operators (LCOs) are seeing. Here are trends, concerns and what’s to come in the future for insecticides. There have been about two active ingredients released in the past five years, although the majority of changes are refinements within current modes of action, says Rick Fletcher, technical services manager turf/ornamentals for Nufarm. “All we’ve really had are a lot of tweaks with the existing modes of action to add different chemical structures—but not changing the modes of action,” Fletcher says. Changing rules There is also more of a focus on using insecticides that are “environmentally friendly.” Pushing this trend forward are the recently released pollinator regulations. Tasked by the White House to create a strategy that would promote pollinator health, a task force led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released guidelines concerning neonicotinoids in May. “Pollinator awareness will be in the forefront in the next year or two,” Fletcher says. “The changes haven’t played out yet, but it will change what people do. There will probably be label changes and everything possible to avoid direct contact with pollinators. It will change our world.”

With the regulations possibly limiting what products can be used, LCOs want to make sure they’ll still have access to effective chemicals, says Harold Enger, LIC, director of education at franchisor Spring-Green Lawn Care Corp. in Plainfield, Ill. “The biggest concern for a lot of us is losing valuable tools like neonicotinoids,” Enger says. “You’re not supposed to put down neonicotinoids on flowering plants, but the lawns you’re treating shouldn’t have those plants on them, anyway.” No matter where operators are located, they need to become familiar with the new regulations, he says. Enger encourages LCOs to join their state trade organizations or national ones like the National Association of Landscape Professionals to stay on top of news and have their voices heard. Top insects to control Beyond pollinators, there are other insects causing concerns. Although it varies by region, two insects creating some issues for LCOs lately are chinch bugs and white grubs, experts say. “White grubs continue to be the primary concern of LCOs, simply because they are so devastating if the population goes unchecked,” says Jim Goodrich, product manager for fungicides, insecticides and PRGs, PBI/Gordon Corp. With more LCOs diversifying their businesses, they’re now also faced with tree and shrub insects. “The crape myrtle bark scale is becoming a problem in the south central U.S.,” Goodrich says. “The ficus and rugose spiraling whiteflies are a constant problem in the Florida market, while the Emerald Ash Borer is a growing concern in the Midwest and north central U.S.” Emerald Ash Borers are still causing problems because of the approach many municipalities are taking. “You can protect against them but that costs money,” Fletcher says. “Several cities and towns are either taking the ostrich approach—sticking their heads in the sand, pretending they don’t have a problem—or waiting until the tree can’t be saved or has died.”

In the future Since discovering new chemistries is driven by the pharmaceutical market and then passed down to agriculture, it takes longer for the new formulations to reach the lawn care market, Fletcher says. He predicts LCOs will see tweaks to products with existing modes of action. “We’ll be looking for better selectivity and environmental profiles,” Fletcher says. “You’ll probably see more combination products with two or three modes of action.” Smaller packaging may be another trend on the rise, and that’s welcome news to Enger. “When a new product comes out in a gallon container and you only need 1/4 ounce per 1,000 square feet, you don’t want to have to spend all of that money on it if you haven’t used it before,” Enger says. Going forward, Jason Bishop, regional manager for King Green in Gainesville, Ga., would like to see manufacturers lower prices for new releases. “New products have increased cost, while older products are staying affordable,” he says. King Green is a lawn care company with about $11 million in annual revenue. Having more efficient insecticides that are environmentally friendly is also something Bishop hopes to have in the future—and that’s the direction the industry is headed. “There are many quality choices for insect control in the turf market, but there haven’t been many advancements as of late,” Goodrich says. “However, new products entering the market in the next few years will be low-use-rate formulations that have less impact on beneficial insects.” Dowdle is a freelance writer based in Alabama. Photo: © Correction: The print version of this article attributed information from PBI/Gordon Corp. to Aubrey Ammon. It’s been updated to quote Jim Goodrich.

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Good Greenhouse Hygiene

Published by permission from Grower Talks.
c/o Ball Publishing originally printed 4/28/2015.

Written by Sarah Brackman

There’s a lot of advice given on this subject and I’d like to share mine based on my experiences in greenhouse and nursery production—especially in the Pacific North-west and British Columbia. These are two particularly difficult areas to grow in given the dark, wet climate, so sanitation is essential.

Why clean and sanitize?
Cleaning is the first step towards removing hard-to-control pathogens, such as powdery and downy mildews, botrytis, fusarium, algae, moss and liverwort. These issues will begin to occur once they have a host or the environment supports their growth. Soil dust can harbor spores and is hard to remove without cleaning.

Watering frequently with a liquid fertilizer feeds algae and can create an impenetrable layer on soil surfaces, walkways, plastic, end walls, benches and on the inside of irrigation/mist lines. These conditions can be hazardous for workers and have an effect on crop quality and yield. Incorporating sanitation is an essential step in removing pathogen spores, including resting/dormant and interrupting reproduction. Cleaning eliminates the host and sanitizing disrupts the life cycle of greenhouse pests and disease.

How to go about it
It’s beneficial to set up a sanitation plan that can be followed between crops and at the end of the season. A written program can be instrumental by pointing out the steps to follow, the process and listing the tools that will be required. Designating a person or crew to clean up in between crops can help extend the life of more thorough, end-of-season cleaning and sanitation.

Depending on your operation and crop rotation you may choose to sanitize between crops or annually. Review the program with employees and expect accountability. Have workers read the labels and manuals of the products/tools you decide to use so they’re familiar with the proper instructions and understand what PPE (personal protective equipment) is required. Remember that PPE is more than just long sleeves, pants, socks and shoes, but also includes skin protection like gloves, hearing and eye protection. Good planning, direction and the right equipment are key elements in a cleanup program. Clean first then sanitize
Cleaning is a recommended practice that gives you better control than sanitizing alone because it goes a long way toward increasing the sanitizer’s efficacy. It will eliminate all organic matter, which plays host to a variety of pathogens and insects. Your program should include how you want your growing areas cleaned. It’s good to sweep up plant debris and soil residues; it’s better to follow up sweeping with a leaf blower or power washer to remove the finest particles of organic matter that a broom may miss.

At this point, the sanitizing agents you choose will have the highest possible efficiency. This may sound extreme and costly, but if you’ve had a recent disease outbreak, skipping cleaning or sanitizing leaves you at risk of re-infection, which will potentially cost more in the end. Being thorough also reduces risks of on-the-job injuries by eliminating slippery algae growth that can lead to slipping or falling. This will take time and money, but in the end will pay for itself in many ways, such as decreasing disease pressure and higher crop quality. The disease triangle shows the three major conditions required for pathogens to thrive. Eliminate one condition and you take a big step in reducing the likelihood of infection.

Critical points of control
It’s important that your program identifies all of the potential points of re-infection from within your growing areas, including non-crop areas, edges, under benches and access points to your greenhouses or nursery fields. Using crop history can help determine the extent of your program. I’ve had to step through many footbaths on my way into operations that take sanitation very seriously.

High traffic areas provide transportation for a number of pathogens. Be aware of how disease can spread and avoid promoting these conditions. Keeping a footbath in front of critical areas will decrease the amount of infection spread in your facility. As part of your regular maintenance, keep the bath’s chemicals active and know the half-life of the sanitizer you use. Some growers have implemented an automatic or manual foam spray across entryways, which increases contact time. Depending on your operation, choose a method that will not create a hazard to workers and will be easy to use and maintain. Pay close attention to these areas and make sure they’re addressed in your plan.

Consider additional measures for highly susceptible growing areas such as propagation. This is a good spot to implement water treatments. Keeping your water lines and mist nozzles clean is much easier when you treat the water before the build-up of algae and biofilm begins. This also helps to keep your propagation area disease free. Standardize practices, such as spraying racks, empty benches, walkways and sanitizing pots and trays, will maintain a clean environment during the production cycle. Be sure to check labels and make sure the sanitizing agent can be used while a crop is in production and doesn’t have to be rinsed.

Irrigation lines also can transport pathogens into your operation. Injecting a labeled chemistry into your irrigation lines will strip away deposits of algae and biofilm and eradicate other pathogens such as pythium and phytophthora. Not all chemistries are the same, so select them carefully. Consider the safety around plant tissue and employees.

There are two types of biofilm that frequently cause disease and build-up. Using an acid cleaner first will eliminate mineral biofilm, which is a combination of aerobic bacteria and fertilizer. It will strip off the bacteria’s cell membrane and dissolve fertilizer minerals left behind. Follow the acid cleaner with a sanitizing agent that has the ability to pick up where the acid left off and liquefy the remaining bacteria and resting spores. This will keep your growing areas clean and reduce irrigation nozzle clogging. Factors that can influence the presence of biofilm, algae and other diseases are water source and quality, the age of irrigation lines, how often they’re shocked, and whether or not liquid feed is used.

For the ultimate disease, algae and biofilm control, consider a water-treatment system for your entire facility. Choose a system that pairs well with your irrigation system, water pressure and desired dilution rate. Possible associated expenses include injection equipment and operational costs. Test your irrigation water at the source, at mid-point and the end of the lines to sample pathogenic elements. Recognizing and counting the number of bacteria colonies forming units can forewarn of a prospective problem. It’s important to understand what challenges you face and determine a threshold.

You have a plan, time to implement it
Now that you’ve assessed your risk areas and developed a plan, it’s time to dedicate yourself and your employees to a cleaner way of growing. Choose products and equipment based on your operation and planned level of sanitization. If you participate in a certified program such as organic, you’ll want to check labels on the products so you maintain compliance. Start with the most critical points of control and branch out from there. Clean, sanitize and grow.

Implement something simple; starting is always the hardest part. Once your strategy is in place, execute and evaluate. Adopt a flexible approach. Make regular observations and improve your plan based on results or lack thereof. Talk to other growers and exchange challenges and solutions. A solid sanitation program results in a strong foundation for your next production cycle. Does your greenhouse have good hygiene?grower talks

Don’t let pests prevail

Published by permission from Greenhouse Management Magazine. c/o GIE Media Inc. originally printed 2/24/2016.

Written by Raymond Cloyd


Don’t let pests prevail Features – Pest & Disease Acquiring a basic knowledge of the different categories of insecticides, and how they work, will better equip you to handle pest infestations. Insecticides are an integral component of most pest management programs associated with greenhouse-grown horticultural crops. Insecticides are relatively inexpensive, easy to apply and effective (in most cases).  Greenhouse producers apply insecticides to maintain insect pest populations below damaging levels or suppress existing insect pest populations so as to avoid any losses associated with marketability or salability due to a reduction in aesthetic value. The types of insecticides that may be used on greenhouse-grown horticultural crops include contact, stomach poison, translaminar and systemic.  Contact insecticides kill insect pests (e.g. aphids, caterpillars, thrips and whiteflies) by direct contact or when an insect pest walks or crawls over a treated surface. The insect pest walks across that treated surface and then insecticide residues enter the body and move to the site of action.

The activity of stomach poison insecticides is affiliated with an insect pest feeding on treated surfaces such as leaves and ingesting the insecticide residues, which are then absorbed through the stomach lining. Insects stop feeding in 24 to 48 hours with death usually occurring within two to four days.  Translaminar insecticides work by penetrating leaf tissues and forming a reservoir of active ingredient within the leaf, which provides residual activity against foliar-feeding insect pests.  Systemic insecticides applied to the growing medium, as either a drench or granule, involve the active ingredient being taken-up by the root system, which is then translocated or distributed throughout the plant. Systemic insecticides are primarily used to prevent outbreaks of phloem-feeding insect pests such as aphids and whiteflies.  The two major categories of insecticides that target insect pests are: broad-spectrum and narrow-spectrum/selective insecticides. Broad-spectrum insecticides are active on a variety of different insect pests, which is helpful when a diversity of horticultural crops is grown in a greenhouse. Narrow-spectrum or selective insecticides are only active on certain types of insects. For example, the product Dipel, which contains the active ingredient, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki, only has activity on caterpillars. Another example is the product Gnatrol, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis as the active ingredient, and is only active on fungus gnat larvae.  The effectiveness of an insecticide depends on several factors related to application including: coverage, timing and frequency. Thorough, uniform coverage of all aboveground plant parts, including leaves and stems, is important in suppressing insect pest populations. Both upper and lower leaf surfaces must receive a sufficient volume of spray solution. Be sure to determine the location of pests, and then direct spray applications to those plant parts to achieve maximum coverage; subsequently increasing insecticide effectiveness. Leaf undersides must be sufficiently covered, as this is where the life stages (eggs, larvae/nymphs, pupae and adults) of most insect pests are located.  The use of water-sensitive paper or spray cards may be used to assess spray coverage by quantifying spray droplet distribution and deposition. The strips of water-sensitive paper turn blue when exposed to water droplets. Spray cards can be randomly distributed among a crop and securely attached to plants. This practice should be conducted routinely to determine droplet size and density. Moreover, using spray cards will help to evaluate the performance of the spray equipment and applicator efficiency.  Proper timing of insecticide applications will also maximize effectiveness. Insecticide applications conducted when insect pest populations are extensive results in taking longer to lower the numbers below damaging levels. Therefore, more frequent applications will be required, especially when dealing with multiple age structures or overlapping generations.

In addition, insect pests may 1) have developed into life stages, such as eggs or pupae that are tolerant of insecticide applications; 2) already be causing substantial plant damage; or 3) be in locations on plants such as unopened terminal buds or flowers that are difficult to reach with sprays. Always time insecticide applications when insect pest numbers are low. Insecticides should be applied in the early morning or late afternoon, which is generally when most insect pests are active, although activity depends on ambient air temperatures. Applying insecticides when insect pests are less active will result in minimal efficacy (based on mortality).  Most insecticides only kill the young (larvae or nymphs) and adult life stages of insect pests with no direct effect on eggs or pupae. Therefore, repeat applications are warranted in order to kill stages that were initially not susceptible to previous applications such as larvae or nymphs that were in the egg stage, and adults that were in the pupal stage. When dealing with overlapping generations and different age structures simultaneously, repeat applications will be required. In some cases, depending on the target insect pest, two to three applications may be needed when insect pest populations are abundant.  Frequency of application also depends on the season. For instance, during cooler temperatures, the insect life cycle (egg to adult) and the length of development between generations may be extended compared to warmer temperatures, which may result in fewer insecticide applications; however, one common problem is that intervals between spray applications are too long (e.g. >10 days), which leads to insufficient suppression of insect pest populations.  In order to maximize insecticide activity against targeted insect pests, be sure to time applications accordingly, cover all plant parts with the spray solution and conduct frequent enough applications to suppress insect pest populations.  Raymond is a professor and extension specialist in horticultural entomology/plant protection in the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University. His research and extension program involves plant protection in greenhouses, nurseries, landscapes, conservatories and vegetables and fruits.

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