The Alfalfa Fields and Harvesting Process

Alfalfa sprouts are the youngshoots of the alfalfa plant eaten within fourto seven days of germination.They can be sprinkled on sandwiches, mixed with salads, added to fries or eaten as health food.Since germination of the seeds canbein controlled environments, commercially produced alfalfa has the tendency tocausefood - related diseases. They can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria unless handled with care.

Contaminated seeds are the most likely source of the pathogens involved in the production of sprouts. The conditions of the seed in the field before harvesting can lead to contamination. This is because of the agricultural irrigation water, improperly composed manure, contaminated soil,dirtyharvesting equipment, or animal grazing in the field. The packaging and storageprocesscan alsointroducethe salmonella and E. coli bacterium that are acausefor sprout related diseases.

Contaminated raw sprouts showevidenceof Salmonella Saintpaul, which is astrainof bacteria. Thewarmand humid conditions of the germination of the sprouts are perfect for theaggressivebacterial growth, leading to contamination. It attacks the stomach and intestines causing bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Healthy people have a chance of recovering the poisoning if their immune system is capable. However, children and elderly people with compromised immune system may not.

The other bacteria found in sprouts are E. coli 0157, which cause severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Some people show no symptoms, and then theypassit to others who get sick. Seeds are most likelyare contaminatedby this pathogen from the field. Introduction of human and animal wastes or untreated water in to the field by rivers, ground water or creeks to the seedscausethe presence of pathogens in the seeds.


The process of germinating alfalfa is extremelydelicate, as it requires maximum sanitation to avoid contamination. Theconditionof seeds for planting should be the firstpointto consider before planting. Improper harvesting and storage of seeds can introduce bacteria that will continue to grow after planting.

The conditions of water for the germinatingenvironmentare alsoancrucial factor so that it is not a breeding ground for bacteria. The wet and humid conditions of the germinationprocessprovidethe bacteria with a conducive environment for growth and multiplication of salmonella. Using untreated water and exposure to rodents or animals can lead to contamination by E. coli pathogens. The sprouts should not be stored for more than a week after they arereadyas there is adangerof contamination during storage.

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Choosing a disease resistant variety to plant reduces insect and pathogen attack. Weak seeds are the most vulnerable to attack. Disinfecting seeds and the growing tray with three percent hydrogen peroxide before planting reduces the amount of active pathogens.After planting them,constantmonitoring reduces the spread of pathogens.Taking samples and examining them as they germinate allows forrepresentativereadingfor pathogen control. Use ofcleanwater and constant change of the water rinses the sprouts and thisreducethe bacteriacountthat might bepresent.

There should be sufficient airflow to allow for ventilation and reduce rotting. Leaving the sprouts standing in water also causes rotting that is a catalyst for bacterial growth. Chemicaltreatmentof sprouts reducesactivepathogens in the sprouts, but it unless itis requiredit should be minimally administered. Extracarewhile handlingreadysprouts by exercising cleanliness gives them a longer shelf life.

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