Best Management Practices for Producing Clean Nursery Stock

7. Record keeping

Objective:  Maintain records that help verify that inputs are clean and nursery workers are complying with clean production practices and facilitate traceability of materials used for the production process. 

What you should know:  Well-documented, consistent records are a key element of any certification system. Accrediting organizations or clients may require that records documenting the nursery’s compliance with clean production practices be made available upon request. Even if you are not selling to clients that require this documentation, adequate records and documentation are a key tool for any nursery following a clean production system.   Where multiple workers are involved, records show who did what and when.  This information helps the nursery manager monitor working practices, and also provides a way to trace back problems that may arise in one or more batches of plants.  Having good records can mean the difference between a quarantine of the entire nursery to track down a Phytophthora infestation and focusing on a small group of plants that may have been exposed to a particular lapse or exception.

Some areas of record keeping to consider are listed below. The types of records that apply to different nurseries will vary somewhat, but all records should be clear, with dates/times and worker initials as appropriate. A useful way to organize much of this information is to maintain planting-to-delivery records for each separate batch of plants that allows you to quickly review all of the inputs and cultural practices during production as well as plant health issues that have been observed.

7.1. Planting materials:  Maintain dated logs noting collectors; species; collection locations or sources; propagule types; notes on environmental conditions and any exceptional circumstances during collection; storage conditions (e.g., dates, location, temperature); and treatment (e.g., dips, heat treatment) parameters.

7.2. Containers: For each batch of plants, record whether new or reused containers, racks, and flats are used. For reused containers, maintain logs documenting cleaning and sanitation details (when treated, by whom, how).

7.3. Potting media:  For each batch of potting media, maintain records indicating the media source and how and when it was treated (method, time, temperature data, etc.).

7.4. Water:  Document the water supply used, including practices used for maintaining wellhead integrity, if applicable. Make note of plumbing system maintenance that could introduce contamination into the irrigation system, such as repair of broken pipes, etc. Record procedures used to sanitize pipes which may have been contaminated.

7.5. Production practices: Compliance with phytosanitary procedures should be documented to the degree possible with dated log sheets. Dated logs should include records for testing or refreshing disinfectant solutions (post a log sheet near the site), plant health inspections, checklists, and other records used to emphasize and maintain clean production practices. 

7.6. Testing: Keep track of which batches or individual plants have been tested, where they were located in the nursery, and dated results.  Document further actions taken based on test results (retesting or scheduled retesting, plants destroyed, moved to quarantine area, etc.) and any follow-up or determinations as to the source of identified detections.

7.7. Plant batches:  Use pot labels to identify each plant batch.  The batch number should allow you to identify the type and source of plant propagules used, dates of potting and repotting, container types used, types of potting media used and how/when it was treated, testing, and other production inputs and handling.  Complete information on production inputs, handling, and testing is critical for tracing potential sources of contamination if plants in a given batch are found to be infected.

7.8. Worker training:  For all workers, keep track of training that was conducted (when, by whom, topics).  Make sure nursery workers have read these BMPs and other related materials and have enough training to follow them.  Keep copies of BMPs and related references available for quick reference in the nursery. Where appropriate, post relevant procedures in work areas where they will be used.

3/5/2021 - edited for clarity.