Controlled environment agriculture(CEA) continues to grow in popularity worldwide, but little research has been conducted into potential pathogen risks and sanitation practices. Ana Allende, Ph.D., with the CEBAS-CSIC in Spain, is leading a project to fill the void and provide the industry with science-based information on which they can develop risk-reduction and sanitation programs. She said:

“This project should bring some new data never before provided. It focuses on the analysis of the risk factors and sampling points. It will give information on how the industry should move on testing, understanding the results, and in case it’s needed, control measures.” CEA involves growing crops hydroponically, in artificial substrates, or in soil under protective structures, such as high tunnels, greenhouses, or vertical farms.

Although Allende and her team are conducting their research with three collaborating facilities in Spain, she said the resulting data and recommendations should be applicable to other sites in Europe and the United States. Their work is also focused on leafy greens, but the information could be relevant to other crops, such as peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers, grown in protected environments.

Joining her in the project titled “Occurrence and transfer of pathogens from the production environment to leafy greens grown in controlled environment agriculture” are co-principal investigators Mabel Gil, Ph.D., and Pilar Truchado, Ph.D., both with the CEBAS-CSIC.