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Drip vs. Furrow Irrigation in the Delivery of Escherichia coli to Onions

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 32(2): 235-244. (doi: 10.13031/aea.32.11163) @2016
Authors:   Clinton C Shock, Stuart R Reitz, Rocco A. Roncarati, Harry Kreeft, Byron M. Shock, James C. Klauzer
Keywords:   Food safety, Water quality, Subsurface drip irrigation, Furrow irrigation, Onions, Allium cepa, Soil filtration of E. coli, Lateral water movement,


Surface irrigation systems that reuse water may deliver bacteria to produce destined for fresh consumption. Four irrigation systems delivered (1) well water free of via subsurface drip irrigation, (2) canal water with moderate levels of via subsurface drip irrigation, (3) canal water with moderate levels of via furrow irrigation, and (4) canal water with enhanced levels of via furrow irrigation. The four irrigation systems (replicated five times) applied water to onion on silt loam. Water was sampled hourly for , and the lateral movement of in the soil solution was tracked by soil samples following irrigations. Onion bulbs were sampled for contamination. The most probable numbers of E. coli in water and soil water were determined using IDEXX Colilert® and Colisure®, respectively, and Quanti-Tray/2000®. Under both furrow and subsurface drip irrigation, a fraction of the was delivered to the soil immediately adjacent to the onion bulbs. The silt loam retained most of the content away from the onion bulbs and close to where the water entered the soil. No was detected inside of the onion bulbs from any irrigation treatment. Current subsurface drip or furrow (flood) irrigation practices do not appear to pose a significant risk for bacterial contamination of dry bulb onion grown on silt loam.

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