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Soil Solarization Reduces Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Total Escherichia coli on Cattle Feedlot Pen Surfaces

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Feedlot pen soil is a source for transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7, and therefore a target for preharvest strategies to reduce this pathogen in cattle. The objective of this study was to determine the ability of soil solarization to reduce E. coli O157:H7 in feedlot surface material (FSM). A feedlot pen was identified in which naturally occurring E. coli O157:H7 was prevalent and evenly distributed in the FSM. Forty plots 3 by 3 m were randomly assigned such that five plots of each of the solarization times of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 10 weeks were examined. Temperature loggers were placed 7.5 cm below the surface of each plot, and plots to be solarized were covered with clear 6-mil polyethylene. At each sampling time, five FSM samples were collected from each of five solarized and five unsolarized plots. E. coli concentrations and E. coli O157:H7 presence by immunomagnetic separation and plating were determined for each FSM sample. Initial percentages of E. coli O157:H7–positive samples in control and solarized FSM were 84 and 80%, respectively, and did not differ (P > 0.05). E. coli O157:H7 was no longer detectable by 8 weeks of solarization, but was still detected in unsolarized FSM at 10 weeks. The average initial concentration of E. coli in FSM was 5.56 log CFU/g and did not differ between treatments (P > 0.05). There was a 2.0-log decrease of E. coli after 1 week of solarization, and a >3.0-log reduction of E. coli by week 6 of solarization (P, 0.05). E. coli levels remained unchanged in unsolarized FSM (P > 0.05). Daily peak FSM temperatures were on average 8.7°C higher for solarized FSM compared with unsolarized FSM, and reached temperatures as high as 57°C. Because soil solarization reduces E. coli O157:H7, this technique may be useful for reduction of persistence and transmission of this pathogen in cattle production, in addition to remediation of E. coli O157:H7–contaminated soil used to grow food crops.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, P.O. Box 166, State Spur 18D, Clay Center, Nebraska 68933-0166, USA. 2: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, P.O. Box 166, State Spur 18D, Clay Center, Nebraska 68933-0166, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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