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Article from Greenhouse Canada, September 2021

As a grower, how do you prevent bacteria, fungi and viruses from entering your business and spreading, with all the associated consequences? 

“Bacteria, fungi and viruses are a threat to all kinds of crops in the vegetable and ornamental horticulture industry. These threats are crop and even species-dependent, but if there is a serious infestation, the yield and the profitability of the crop are at risk,” says Arie Alblas, Canadian account manager at Royal Brinkman

Prevention is better than cure. Viruses such as CGMMV (Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus) and ToBRFV (Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus) can cause yield loss and even make it necessary to terminate the crop prematurely. To prevent these pathogens, there is a need for an increase in hygiene in and around greenhouses. 

According to Alblas, it’s important to have complete solution that not only pays attention to plant health, but also food safety and human safety. Almost two years ago, Royal Brinkman introduced a complete hygiene management program called HortiHygienz that is based on five pillars: crop rotation, people, materials, water quality, and responsibility and sustainability. 


Crop Rotation

An empty greenhouse or compartment is the ideal time to get rid of any bacteria, fungi and viruses and to start clean again. The first step is a good cleaning of the greenhouse structure and other hardware after the crop has been fully removed. Follow with one or two disinfection applications. Note that many disinfectants were originally meant for veterinary application but are not necessarily the best for killing specific plant viruses or other plant pathogens. Be sure to choose a disinfectant that was developed for the greenhouse or plant industry and has a proven effect on viruses beside bacteria and fungi. 


People and Activities

People are a common source of infection. Employees or visitors can unknowingly bring in bacteria, fungi or viruses and spread them via hands, footwear and clothing. Reduce the number of visitors, and make sure that hands and footwear are clean using a hygiene lock that shrubs footwear with a disinfectant and sprays hands before you are allowed into the building. 

Coveralls are the best and easiest way to reduce the risk with visitors. For employees, consider changing into company provided work clothes that stay with the company after a day or shift of work. The goal here is to eliminate diseases coming in by means of clothing that is potentially contaminated.


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  • Disease-free materials

    Undesired pathogens can also be introduced via materials such as trolleys, tools and crates. Therefore, ensure proper cleaning and disinfection and make clear agreements on this with suppliers of these materials. Spreading of pathogens within your facility can also be prevented by regular cleaning and/or disinfecting of carts and other moving equipment. Fully automated options are available for disinfecting of moving equipment with each use. Again, choose the right disinfectant.



    Optimal water quality

    Attention to water quality is also important. Bacteria, fungi and viruses are often spread through the facility with lightning speed via irrigation. A clean water system with optimum water quality is of great importance in preventing this. Increasing the oxygen in the irrigation water with methods such as nanobubbles can lead to a  more healthy, and therefore less susceptible, root zone. Other angle for optimal water quality is preventing and eliminating the buildup of organic materials in water lines, drip irrigation, sprinklers and water storage tanks. This all leads to higher water quality and minimizes the spread of viruses and plant pathogens.






Responsibility and sustainability

Using approved and proven cleaning agents and disinfectants is essential, but it’s also important to choose products that are safe for humans and the environment. For instance, non-corrosive disinfectants are a must with more cleaning cycles due to increasing disease pressure in the industry. After all, growers want a safe environment for their employees, to meet the requirements of their customers and to be able to use their materials and greenhouse equipment for as long as possible.



  • The approach

    Having worked in horticulture all his life, first in his family’s pepper greenhouse, then with various propagators in the Netherlands and Canada, to his current role in Ontario, Alblas knows hygiene is never about one single solution. It’s about a combined approach of different aspects.

    “We work according to a fixed protocol, and we can provide clarity for growers by mapping and optimizing the processes,” says Alblas. Royal Brinkman’s HortiHygienz protocol and its five pillars are now standard across their global team. It is important to have an approach that not only has the right hygiene equipment, but also contains specific advice and guidance tailor made for each situation, crop and operation, during and after the infestation.

    “We work according to a fixed protocol, and we can provide clarity for growers by mapping and optimizing the processes,” says Alblas. Royal Brinkman’s HortiHygienz protocol and its five pillars are now standard across their global team. It is important to have an approach that not only has the right hygiene equipment, but also contains specific advice and guidance tailor made for each situation, crop and operation, during and after the infestation. 


  • Arie Alblas - Canada




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