May 7, 2019

New Water Management Standards for Leafy Greens

On April 19, 2019, the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (California LGMA) adopted a new approach to manage agricultural water safety through the implementation of new agricultural water best practices for leafy green production and harvest.

Western Growers (WG) partnered with the leafy green industry to facilitate this effort. After several months of working with industry members and academic advisors to formulate the best practices, these new agricultural water management practices were accepted by the California LGMA and have subsequently been shared with the Arizona LGMA for their consideration. The final version of the revised water section is now incorporated in the guidelines. They can be accessed here.

 “There has been a comprehensive effort to include input from growers, handlers, academic and regulatory experts over the course of the last few months that has resulted in a paradigm shift in best practices for water used during production and harvest of leafy greens,” said WG Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, Science & Technology Hank Giclas on the process and changes to the best practices. “No longer are all water systems considered the same and appropriate for every use; now complete water system assessments must occur to determine when and where certain waters may be utilized.” 

The new best practices target overhead irrigation, with changes focusing on the increased risk related to direct crop and water contact during the latter stages of production. New metrics require a complete system assessment (water source, distribution system and method/timing of use), along with more robust sampling requirements and more stringent microbial standards for waters applied directly to the edible portion of the crop within three weeks of a scheduled harvest. Additionally, if overhead irrigation water is sourced from surface water sources or any part of the irrigation system is open to the environment, growers will be required to treat the water with an antimicrobial treatment when irrigating overhead in the final three weeks before harvest.

WG worked with longtime partner and industry expert, iDecisionScience, LLC to facilitate this effort. WG is reviewing its annual amendment process to continue to support the leafy green industry in enhancing the leafy green food safety guidelines utilized by the Arizona and California LGMAs.