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Plant & Pest Advisory > Commercial Ag Updates and Farm Food Safety

Plant & Pest Advisory > Vegetable Crops

Contact Information

The points of contact between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service and the grower & business communities are the NJ County Agricultural Agents. The agents are a tremendous source of information for both new and experienced growers. Visit your local county extension office.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Salvaging Crops After the Hurricane

Wes Kline, Cumberland Co. Ag Agent and Food Safety expert, provides four resource articles and discusses the adverse effects of Hurricane Irene in terms of food safety and produce quality in the Plant & Pest Advisory.
Photo by Bill Gallo Jr,, Damage at Cumberland...
Heavy rains and flooding over the last two weeks have adversely affected many fruits and vegetables.  Standing water after a heavy rain is not an unusual occurrence.  Floodwaters that have come in contact with septic systems, biosolids, treatment facilities, etc. are a concern.  Fruits and vegetables touched by floodwater should not be sold or consumed.  The Food and Drug Administration considers any crop that comes in contact with floodwater to be “adulterated” and cannot be sold for human consumption.  This is especially true for leafy greens close to harvest.  A thirty-foot buffer (area to turn equipment) should be maintained between the crop and flood areas.  To reduce the chances for cross-contamination do not drive through the flooded areas to harvest.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dealing with Flooded Vegetable Fields

Just noticed this in one of my google alert messages (titles linked to full articles):

Local Food
Food Crop Safety After Irene's Floodwaters by Amy Halloran | Sep 01, 2011 on Food Safety News website.

What really caught my eye was this reference to our former Rutgers colleague:
Steve Reiners, associate professor at Cornell University, put together "Dealing with Flooded Vegetable Fields," which deals with plant survival under water and flooding and soil fertility, as well as flooding and food safety.

"There are two types of flooding," wrote Reiners. "The first is more typical and occurs after a heavy downpour when fields become saturated and water pools on the soil surface.  This type of flooding can reduce yields and even kill plants but usually will not result in contamination of produce with human pathogens." 
The second type of flooding, from rising creeks and rising rivers rather than a deluge of rainwater, is affecting many farmers in the aftermath of Irene, although some farms might be dealing with both types of storm water.

"Unless you are absolutely sure that flooding is not from streams and surface water, do not use fruits and vegetables that were at or near harvest at the time of flooding," he writes.
Can't emphasize that last comment enough! Have seen several fields at near harvest stage that were under standing or running water since Sunday's rains ended. They're likely not safe for consumption!
Rick VanVranken

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reporting Losses Due to Irene

Wes Kline and I just participated in a conference call initiated by Secretary Fisher with NJ State Board of Agriculture members, USDA representatives and NJ Farm Bureau Executive Director Pete Fury to get a preliminary assessment of damage caused by Hurricane Irene as it passed over the state. By all accounts, it could have been a lot worse, and certainly the flooding in the northern counties is still posing significant threats to people and businesses. The hurricane was one more blow in what has already been a challenging season weather-wise, and some crops will still not show damage for several weeks. However, the consensus was that there are important steps to take in its aftermath.
  • First, farmers with crop, livestock or building damage from the hurricane should contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to report it. DO NOT DESTROY damaged crops until local reps can assess and document the damage. To locate your local FSA office, see
  • Anything covered by crop insurance should be reported to your insurance agent.
  • Crops that have been damaged by wind or excessive rains likely need some protective fungicide treatments to avoid disease spread.
  • Make note of any areas of crop fields that are flooded as water from overflowing ponds or streams, or even from field run-off, may contaminate produce with pathogens and create a food safety hazard. Avoid harvesting from these areas if possible, or be ready to take extra precautions to wash/treat this produce to reduce potential contamination.
Rick VanVranken