Wastewater epidemiology used to stave off lettuce shortage

Jan 22, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The University of Arizona is leading the charge in studying wastewater for potential diseases, including COVID-19. Now, the work of epidemiologists could help save the nation from a leafy-green shortage, starting right here in Arizona.

Yuma produces the majority of the U.S. winter-time leafy greens. It’s a huge economic driver this time of year, and the population close to doubles with migrant workers and field producers.

“We have like 50,000 farm workers in the community,” said Paul Brierley, executive director at the UArizona Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture. “How can we make Yuma a safe place to go back to work when the season starts back up.”

It was a question his team posed back in the summer and fall as COVID-19 cases were declining, and an ever-looming “second wave” was bound to approach. Sadly, as these areas grow, so have COVID-19 cases. Yuma County has more than 33,000 total cases, and about a 20 percent total positivity rate. This could hinder crop production for the U.S.

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