Helping Canneries Make Better Use of Leftover
By Marcia Wood
January 2, 2009
With the help of a well-stocked
kitchen cupboard, a can opener, and a microwave oven, a steaming-hot bowl of
your favorite tomato soup can be ready to savor in just minutes. For decades
America's canneries have helped make soupsas well as vegetables, fruits,
juices and other familiar foodsmore convenient for us to enjoy.
Now, Agricultural Research Service
(ARS) scientists are helping canneries tackle the tough problem of what to do
with the millions of gallons of water left over after processing field, orchard
and vineyard harvests.
Strict environmental regulations make some of yesterday's disposal choices
no longer an option, according to
Suarez, director of the agency's
Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, Calif.
Suarez, laboratory soil scientist
Shouse, and University of
California-Riverside colleague Scott Lesch have teamed up with the
Sacramento-based California League of Food
Processors to use scientifically sound water-management practices to solve
processors' water reuse problems.
Right now, the researchers are determining how a major California cannery
might get more value from wastewater that's left after processing plump,
field-fresh tomatoes. The salinity lab scientists are an apt choice for the
work, given that some saltin the form of either sodium hydroxide or
potassium hydroxidethat's used at the cannery to loosen tomatoes' tightly
attached skins ends up in the wastewater.
The factory uses wastewater to irrigate fields of a forage crop. The
researchers have already employed the ARS lab's own technology, known as
"electromagnetic salinity profiling," and its accompanying software
package to map the salinity levels of the wastewater-irrigated fields. And,
they're looking at how often, and how uniformly, the wastewater is applied.
For example, irrigating more oftenwithout overwateringand more
uniformly can help prevent soil from drying and cracking and can improve use of
the water. Cracks can serve as direct channels to the underground water supply,
and can exacerbate leaching of salts and other pollutants.
more about this research in the January 2009 issue of Agricultural
ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.