Green Cleaning Chemistries For The Greenhouse

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The horticultural and aquatic industries are riddled with exposure to hard and soft chemistries, yet there is a lingering misconception of “green chemistry” or “soft chemicals.” Many people disregard the dangers of “hard chemicals” and falsely claim that they are cheaper and more effective.

It is common for greenhouses to use chlorine and acids to clean and lower the pH, even though this practice can be unsafe. Tyson Foods Inc. found this out the hard way last year, after chlorine was accidentally mixed with a drum of acid used for disinfecting. This released a chlorine gas into part of the plant’s fresh chicken processing area, causing 173 workers to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems. Long-term consequences are also a threat, as the Medical College of Wisconsin research team has found an association between chlorine and cancer. 

An Alternative To Chlorine Clean

The alternatives to chlorine are peracetic acid (PAA) and hydrogen dioxide. These active ingredients are found in BioSafe Systems’ ZeroTol 2.0, TerraClean 5.0, and SaniDate 12.0. Peracetic acid and hydrogen dioxide are routinely used to sanitize food and beverage plants, agricultural premises, wineries and breweries, greenhouse facilities and equipment and animal housing. Peracetic acid is also approved for use on fruits and vegetables, and on meat, poultry and seafood products.

PAA is safer and more effective than chlorine on diseases for ornamentals, such as phytophthora, rhizoctonia and pythium. When PAA and H2O2 dissociate, PAA turns back into water and oxygen, leaving no harmful residuals behind. In fact, the added oxygen and water increase plant vigor.

Pathogen Resistance And PAA

Pathogen mutation is another large problem that must be considered. Most fungicides and bactericides are geared towards selecting specific pathogens. If 12% of a targeted pathogen survives a round of spraying, most will be resistant to the next round of spraying. Over a period of 5 to 10 years, this can yield a very strong pathogen. Most people understand this and spray on a rotational basis. Unfortunately, most rotations are still toxic chemicals.

Hydrogen dioxide and PAA, however, attack the pathogens on contact, giving them no time to develop a resistance. ZeroTol 2.0 and TerraClean 5.0 can be used in a tank mixing program to reduce harsh chemical residue and alleviate pathogen mutation. Economical use rates also ensure that PAA and hydrogen dioxide are cheaper than harsher chemical alternatives.

Jeffrey Rich (jrich@biosafesystems.com) is Florida & Gulf States Technical Representative, T&O and Aquatics at BioSafe Systems.

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