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Fruit, vegetable growers hear about practices, products

News Release Distributed 11/14/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Proper record keeping is essential for vegetable producers to verify their compliance with new Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Handling Practices (GHPs), LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari told a recent meeting of Louisiana fruit and vegetable growers.

While not regulations, GAPs and GHPs are market-driven certification programs that serve as guidelines for minimizing food safety hazards, Adhikari said.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service currently provides auditing services to verify growers follow the practices they claim, he said. Although voluntary, the program is frequently used by growers and packers to meet requirements of retail and food service buyers.

The standards are extremely different than practices only 20 years ago, said Joseph Ranatza, of Belle Chasse. His Star Nursery sells citrus, mostly satsumas and navel oranges, and vegetables to Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Whole Foods.

“All chains want certification,” he said. “If you’re not certified, they won’t buy from you.”

Ranatza invested $50,000 in order to reach Primus GAPs certification, which is recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world, he said.

Certification is part of global food safety, Ranatza said. “It’s absolutely valuable.”

Record keeping is necessary to verify that activities have happened, Adhikari said.

“Keeping proper paperwork can satisfy 65-85 percent of the requirements of a GAPs audit,” he said. “If you don’t write it down, it never happened.”

The program is voluntary, Adhikari said. “If you don’t want to be audited or registered, you can audit yourself and assure all these practices have been followed.”

AgCenter plant pathologist Melanie Lewis Ivey explained the workings of the IR-4 project, a national program designed to help get approval of lower- or reduced-risk crop protection products for specialty crops.

IR-4 is a collaborative effort that includes many state agricultural experiment stations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assure availability of pest management products for specialty crops, she said.

Crops are divided into 21 groups, such as root and tuber vegetables, root and tuber greens, bulb vegetables and fruiting crops, Lewis Ivey said. Non-vegetable crops include citrus, pome fruits and stone fruits.

Because the goal is to obtain EPA registration for conventional products and biopesticides, growers need to be active in obtaining registration for a particular crop, she said. “It’s stakeholder driven.”

New herbicide combinations that include glyphosate combined with either 2,4-D or dicamba are coming on the market for agricultural row crops, said AgCenter pesticide safety education coordinator Kim Pope.

This is important because these products could create problems for sensitive fruit and vegetable crops, she said. They’re “auxin mimics,” which imitate natural hormones in plants and cause plants to “grow themselves to death.”

She cautioned the fruit and vegetable growers to talk with their neighbors to assure the neighbors are aware of the sensitive nature of the fruit and vegetable crops. “Controlling physical drift is critical to protecting sensitive crops such as vegetables,” Pope said.

AgCenter fruit and vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot reviewed the results of the spring 2014 tomato and pepper variety trials.

The 2014 trials evaluated the same varieties as 2013 and compared the results. The top three 2013 tomatoes, in order, were Tribute, Tribeca and PSO15122935, while the top three in 2014 were PSO1522935, Amelia and Tribute. All scored well on consumer taste tests, she said.

Top peppers in 2013 were, in order, PSO9941818X5R, Red Bull and Flavorburst. The top three peppers in 2014 were Olympus, Islander and Summer Sweet 8610.

Rick Bogren
Last Updated: 11/14/2014 3:56:44 PM

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