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Carole Saravitz

Research Associate Professor; Phytotron Director

Phytotron 2003

Bio

At the NCSU Phytotron, we are involved in the design and implementation of phytotronics studies  to solve controlled environment problems as well as testing of controlled environment innovations. Increased energy efficiency is a main focus of current research projects. Current interests include development of LED light protocols that provide optimal growth of a wide variety of plants including common crop plants such as corn, soybean, cotton and horticultural crops such as cucumber and tomato.

Area(s) of Expertise

Phytotronics, LED lighting, Hydroponic

Publications

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Grants

Date: 01/01/17 - 6/30/22
Amount: $2,996,668.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The objective of this research is to develop semi-transparent organic solar modules integrated with greenhouses along with engineered plant photo-action spectra that synergistically provide food and energy sources while conserving water for a new food-energy-water paradigm.

Date: 05/03/21 - 5/02/22
Amount: $150,000.00
Funding Agencies: NC Biotechnology Center

The NCSU Phytotron is a premier growth facility that serves the NCSU community, as well as other NC academic institutions and NC companies of various sizes. The Phytotron has always maintained a high-level of precision in regulating environmental conditions. The facility is now more than 50 years old and after many years of heavy use, it has required major renovations and upgrades to keep up with research needs. We were able to conduct an extensive energy conservation project with the NCSU Facilities group to upgrade the growth chambers, as well as the heating, cooling and electrical systems of the Phytotron. During the renovation process we lost precision in controlling the environmental variables of the Phytotron greenhouses. Facilities with a high level of precision in environmental control are necessary for securing research funds, conducting repeatable experiments and enhance graduate student performance. We seek to install a state-of-the-art control system that can be used to not only allow us to precisely control the environmental conditions of the greenhouses but would also increase our capabilities including use of the specialized moisture sensing and weighing system that was donated by Syngenta to the NCSU Horticultural Science Department and requires an Argus system to function. The Argus system that we are requesting would provide state-of-the-art environmental control that is not currently available in any of other plant growth areas at NCSU and would provide the Phytotron with a system similar to the ones used at state-of-the-art growth facilities in RTP. It would also allow connectivity between the Phytotron and the new Plant Sciences building that is being constructed on NCSU’s Centennial Campus.

Date: 01/01/16 - 6/30/17
Amount: $52,500.00
Funding Agencies: Center for Produce Safety

The die-off kinetics of virulent strains of EHEC and STEC microorganisms are not well characterized under different ag-environments. Multiple studies have used currently available surrogates of these pathogens in an attempt to predict pathogen survival and persistence on the surface of plants, in soil and irrigation water with limited success. Major obstacles in this effort are 1) lack off open field environments or greenhouse facilities where researchers could make direct comparisons of the survival and persistence of these strains without compromising the health of research personnel 2) spread and persistence of these high risk pathogens in to the environment following plant/soil inoculation studies and 3) the potential to over or underestimate their persistence in ag-environments. Despite these limitations the outcomes of multiple studies have been used by FDA as part of their decision process to develop the new Produce rules (PR) within the FSMA and to adopt the 2012 EPA microbial standards for recreational water as the standards for irrigation water. Current guidelines require surface water that will be used in direct contact with the edible portion of the crop to meet a rolling Geometric Mean of 126 CFU/100ml and a Statistical Threshold Value of 410 CFU/100ml of generic E. coli. Alternative provisions when surface water exceeds these standards include the use of a microbial die-off rate of 0.5 Log per day that may occur naturally in the field between irrigation events and harvest or via postharvest intervention. Despite these potentially useful alternative, there needs to be science-based information to support this option; especially when multiple crop specific and environmental factors significantly alter targeted die-off rates of human pathogens. Strawberry and Cilantro maybe be significantly impacted by this provision since 1- in Eastern strawberry production surface waters are frequently used for frost protection close to harvest and lack further postharvest commercially available disinfection steps 2- in Cilantro frequent sprinkler irrigation events close to harvest coupled with hand harvesting practices and the use of hydrocooling and flume systems impact harvestable yields and postharvest quality. All these practices could increase the risk of pathogen contamination/dissemination along the supply chain. Preharvest intervention strategies for cilantro and strawberry could be the most reasonable and cost effective mitigation steps that growers could adopt to significantly reduce pathogen persistence to non-detectable levels. The use of chlorine and peroxyacetic acid (PAA) via the irrigation system or as crop protection sprays coupled with the proposed die-off rates could provide the necessary levels of control proposed by the rules. The present concept proposal looks to utilize BSL3 greenhouse conditions to determine and compare side by side the die-off kinetics of surrogate and pathogenic strains of E. coli O157 and non STEC 0157 from the surface of strawberry and cilantro with and without the application of chlorine or PAA to establish whether a combination of these approaches could provide the targeted microbial die-off rate of 0.5 log per day as proposed by the PR.


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