Bacteria of tomatoes managed with well water and pond water: Impact of agricultural water sources on carposphere microbiota

Abstract We know that contamination of crops by human pathogens can occur in agricultural settings but we still do not understand precisely which environmental sources represent the highest risks. Human pathogens maybe introduced by wind, worker hygiene, plant mediated factors, insects, water sources, or any combination of these factors. To safeguard against risks to consumers from agricultural waters, FSMA regulations for U.S. crop production require the use of water with an average of less than 126 CFU per 100 ml for applications that come in direct contact with a crop.  Due to availability/scarcity however, water from other sources such as agricultural ponds is commonly used. To better understand risks that may be associated with the use of “surface”(often higher microbial load) water sources, we described the bacterial microbiota associated with an agricultural pond, an agricultural well and the corresponding microbiota of tomato carpospheres managed with each water source (also described as phyllosphere). 16S rRNA gene amplicons were used for bacterial profiling of waters and tomato surfaces at four time points over a growing season. Microbial profiles differentiated surface and ground water samples throughout the season, however no significant influence on tomato fruit surfaces could be correlated to either water source. These results suggest that in certain cases, environmental pressures such as wind, dust or other airborne factors may have a more significant impact on the surface microbiology of field crops than irrigation or management water sources do.

Keywords Phyllosphere, carposphere, tomatoes, agricultural water sources, pond water, well water, bacterial microbiota, 16SrRNA gene.

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