Impact of Drip Irrigation Method, Soil, and Virus Type on Tomato and Cucumber Contamination

Absar Alum, Carlos Enriquez, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The goal of this study was to better quantify the degree of viral contamination of tomato and cucumber in relationship to virus type, soil type, and irrigation method. Tomatoes and cucumbers were grown in ten-gallon (37.8 L) buckets filled with Pima clay loam or Brazito sandy loam soils. Plants were irrigated with secondary wastewater effluent using surface drip irrigation or subsurface drip irrigation. At specified time intervals irrigation water was seeded with bacteriophages MS-2 and P22, poliovirus type 1 (PV1), enteric adenovirus 40 (Ead 40), and hepatitis A virus. Surface drip irrigation always resulted in viral contamination of both the above and below ground parts of both crops. The roots showed the greatest level of contamination, followed by leaves and fruits. In contrast, with subsurface drip irrigation no viruses were detected in any of the above ground plant surfaces. It was found that under similar soil type and irrigation method, risk of crop contamination was similar for all of the viruses studied. It can be concluded that method of irrigation is the single most critical factor in the contamination trend of different parts of crop plants. Plant parts can be categorized into three groups (root, stem, and leaf/fruit) based on the risk of viral contamination from irrigation water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalFood and Environmental Virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Coliphages
  • Contamination
  • Enteric viruses
  • Irrigation water
  • Produce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Food Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Virology


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