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Small farm safety is newest UMES research focus

  • Federal grant will support study of best practices to combat pathogens

    Tuesday, May 12, 2020

    Helping Maryland farmers who grow produce and raise animals sold primarily through local marketing channels keep food safe is the focus of a half-million dollar research and agriculture extension project newly funded by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

    Researchers at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University of Maryland College Park and USDA's Agricultural Research Service will collaborate on an investigation of bacteria found on Integrated Crop-Livestock Farms - or ICLFs.

    “We hypothesize that organic and conventional farms (that have both crops and animals) might have more contamination in samples compared to their crop-only counterparts,” said UMES' Dr. Salina Parveen, a professor of food science and technology. 

    “Since farmers' markets are a common retail venue for locally grown produce, including that of ICLFs, they might get a higher percentage of microbial contaminants from produce available there,” said Parveen, one of the project's investigators. 

    The federal funding comes from the Organic Transitions Program, which supports “development and implementation of research, extension and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those who are adopting organic practices.” 

    Dr. Fawzy Hashem, a Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences professor, and Dr. E. Nelson Escobar, a small ruminant specialist and interim associate administrator for Extension, round out UMES' team.  Of the $500,000 grant, UMES will receive $150,000 for its part in the project. 

    Dr. Debu Biswas and Dr. Robert Buchanan of UMCP and the USDA's Pat Millner are the other investigators who will be studying “The Ecology, Transmission and Control of Salmonella and Shiga toxin Producing E. coli in Integrated Crop-Livestock (ICLF) Farms.”

    “Results from risk-profiling and risk-assessment studies will provide critical information regarding exposure risk to these pathogens through consumption of produce from ICLFs and crop-only farms (organic and conventional), and potential interventions to control these pathogens,” Parveen said. 

    The information will help industry, policy makers, extension educators, small farmers and consumers to better understand foodborne human infections caused by these pathogens, she said, and aid in shaping mitigation strategies to control public health risks.

    “For extension educators, the implementation of this project plays an essential step for the extension educational task,” Escobar said.  “Evidence-based training will promote effective interventions to enhance food security and survival of small family farms.” 


    By Gail Stephens, Agricultural Communications and Media Associate, UMES Extension/School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences