Factors that affect proliferation of Salmonella in tomatoes post-harvest: the roles of seasonal effects, irrigation regime, crop and pathogen genotype

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Marvasi, Massimiliano ; Hochmuth, G. J. ; Giurcanu, M. C. ; George, A. S. ; Noel, J. T. ; Bartz, J. ; Teplitski, M. (2013)

MAIN OBJECTIVES: Fresh fruits and vegetables become increasingly recognized as vehicles of human salmonellosis. Physiological, ecological, and environmental factors are all thought to contribute to the ability of Salmonella to colonize fruits and vegetables pre- and post-harvest. The goal of this study was to test how irrigation levels, fruit water congestion, crop and pathogen genotypes affect the ability of Salmonella to multiply in tomatoes post-harvest. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Fruits from three tomato varieties, grown over three production seasons in two Florida locations, were infected with seven strains of Salmonella and their ability to multiply post-harvest in field-grown tomatoes was tested. The field experiments were set up as a two-factor factorial split plot experiment, with the whole-plot treatments arranged in a randomized complete-block design. The irrigation treatment (at three levels) was the whole-plot factor, and the split-plot factor was tomato variety, with three levels. The significance of the main, two-way, and three-way interaction effects was tested using the (type III) F-tests for fixed effects. Mean separation for each significant fixed effect in the model was performed using Tukey's multiple comparison testing procedure. MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES AND SIGNIFICANCE: The irrigation regime per se did not affect susceptibility of the crop to post-harvest proliferation of Salmonella. However, Salmonella grew significantly better in water-congested tissues of green tomatoes. Tomato maturity and genotype, Salmonella genotype, and inter-seasonal differences were the strongest factors affecting proliferation. Red ripe tomatoes were significantly and consistently more conducive to proliferation of Salmonella. Tomatoes harvested in the driest, sunniest season were the most conducive to post-harvest proliferation of the pathogen. Statistically significant interactions between production conditions affected post-harvest susceptibility of the crop to the pathogen. UV irradiation of tomatoes post-harvest promoted Salmonella growth.
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