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FYI: Barley straw for algae control in water features

  • Subject: [cg] FYI: Barley straw for algae control in water features
  • From: "Diane Dodge" dianefaydodge@hotmail.com
  • Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2002 08:08:34 -0500

This was interesting, and I thought it deserved airing on the listserv. 
"When immersed in water the straw begins to decompose. During this process
a chemical is released which stops the growth of algae. First lignins are
released into the water, the oxygen in the water oxidizes the lignins into
humic substances. When sunlight shines on the water containing the humic
substances, hydrogen peroxide is formed. Hydrogen peroxide is known for
stopping the growth of algae. The slow decomposition of the straw and
sufficient sunlight ensure that an effective amount of hydrogen peroxide is
continuously present for several months.

The chemical is quickly absorbed by the algae, but has little to no
negative effect on other plants or fish. On the contrary, barley straw may
provide food for the fish and be responsible for improved gill function,
vitality and invertbrate population.  It is important to note that the
straw doesn't kill the current algae but stops it from growing, therefore
when the algae dies it will not be replaced while the straw is present.
This is why it is recommend that straw treatments begin early in the spring
before algae starts. Early treatments are also important because it may
take 2-4 weeks before the straw becomes active, during this time algae will
continue to grow.

The amount of straw needed varies depending on the size of your pond, the
severity of algae, and the amount of dirt or mud. We recommend a pound
bale for every 1000 gallons of water, and significantly more for ponds with
mud and severe algae problems. Each treatment should be effective for many
months, one treatment per season should be sufficient."

A couple of related websites:
  Bob Mugaas discussed runoff in Yard & Garden Line
issues in mid-2000,
   Plants on...

  Tim Wedekind discussed preparing water gardens for
winter in the October, 2001, Gardening Talk

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