Jan. 1, 2012 - Mar. 31, 2014Award Number
Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D
Riparian buffer zones have been implicated in the transmission of foodborne pathogens to produce fields and fresh fruits and vegetables, but no one currently understands how the growth of produce in close proximity to riparian zones influences the risk of contamination. The proposed work will measure the movement of fecal bacteria through riparian zones and onto produce fields by detecting the movement of genes from those bacteria. The measured movement of genes from field sampling will be compared to models that represent competing ideas about how the bacteria move. These models produce maps for farms and surrounding lands. They tell us how bacteria move across the land in a manner similar to what roadmaps tell us about the movement of cars. The maps that agree best with the movement patterns of fecal bacteria will be used to advise growers about when, where and how riparian zones increase risk of foodborne pathogen dispersal onto produce. Ultimately, a web-based tool can be developed to apply the best model to new lands and help the produce industry evaluate crop planting decisions, pre-harvest surveillance practices and harvest practices to prevent product contamination.