Jan. 1, 2012 - Dec. 31, 2012Award Number
Manan Sharma, Ph.D.
USDA - ARS
Compost is a valuable soil amendment used by organic and conventional growers to improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. Compost is produced from a variety of feedstocks that are sources of potentially pathogenic microbes, e.g. landscape trimmings, animal manures, food residuals, and biosolids. Thermophilic compost production processes are designed to achieve significant reductions in fecal coliforms and salmonellae; however, recent surveys of various ‘point of sale’ compost products have raised food-safety concerns that compost may be integrating pathogens into the farm environment. Many states are now requiring ‘point of sale’ compost to be tested for fecal coliforms, salmonellae and E. coli O157:H7. These microbiological testing methods have not been evaluated for their effectiveness in detecting E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. in the wide variety of composts available for on-farm usage. This proposal will evaluate microbiological testing methods that are currently recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the United States Composting Council (USCC) for accuracy in detecting pathogens across a wide variety of ‘point of sale’ composts. The results from this study will determine the most practical and sensitive microbiological testing methods to ensure the safety of compost for use in the produce industry.