Controlling Algae

NACA Information Sheets - Controlling Algae With Straw

Algae cause a number of problems in water. They impede flow in drainage systems; block pumps and sluices; interfere with navigation, fishing and other forms of recreation; cause taint and odour problems in potable waters; block filters and; in some instances, create a health hazard to humans, livestock and wildlife. These problems are increasing because nutrient concentrations in water are rising as a result of human activity and natural processes. There is simultaneous and growing demand world-wide for improvements in water quality. The need to control algae, therefore, is increasing for environmental, recreational and public health reasons.

Because of their small size and rapid growth rates, unicellular algae are difficult to control by methods used for other aquatic plants. Cutting and other forms of mechanical control can help to reduce problems with filamentous algae but are of very limited use. Algae are susceptible to herbicides, but this approach is unpopular in some waters on environmental or public health grounds. Furthermore, herbicides which control algae also kill higher plants so that, although the water is cleared temporarily of all plants, once the herbicide has gone from the water, the regrowth of algae is not restricted by competition from the higher plants and the problem may worsen in subsequent years.

The Centre for Aquatic Plant Management has developed a novel method of controlling algae, which overcomes many of these problems. The application of barley straw to water and has been tested in a wide range of situations and in many countries throughout the world and has proved to be very successful in most situations with no known undesirable side-effects. It offers a cheap, environmentally acceptable way of controlling algae in water bodies ranging in size from garden ponds to large reservoirs, streams, rivers and lakes.

Despite the simplicity of the idea, experience has shown that there are a number of basic rules that must be followed to ensure that the straw works successfully. The purpose of this Information Sheet is to provide practical advice on the optimum ways of using straw.
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Centre for Ecology and Hydrology website link

This fact sheet is based upon the work done by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)

Liquid Barley Straw Extract/Concentrate is an option take a look at the AGA Group website for more information on their product, Bio X

1. Barrett, PRF, Curnow, J & Littlejohn, J (1994) The control of diatom and cyanobacterial blooms in reservoirs using barley straw. Proceedings of Conference - Water 94. Elmia AB, P0 Box 6066, 550 06, Jönköping.

2. Barrett,PRF, Curnow, J & Littlejohn, (1995) The control of diatom and cyanobacterial blooms in reservoirs using barley straw. Proceedings of EWRS Conference, 1994 Dublin. Hydrobiologia, 340:307-311.

3. Barrett,PRF, Curnow, J & Littlejohn, (1994) Potential uses of barley straw for control of algae and other nuisance organisms in water. Proceedings of Conference - Water 94. Elmia AB, P0 Box 6066, 550 06, Jönköping

4. Barrett,PRF (1994) Monograph No. 59: Comparing glasshouse and field pesticide performance pp. 191-200. Field and laboratory experiments on the effects of barley straw on algae. British Crop Protection Council.

5. Barrett,PRF & Newman, JR (1993) The Control of Algae with Barley Straw. Paper 41,PIRA Conference proceedings, Straw – A valuable raw material. 20-22 April, 1993. PIRA International, Randalls Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 7RU.

6. Barrett, PRF & Newman, JR (1992) Algal growth inhibition by rotting barley straw. British Phycological Journal, 27: 83-84

7. Caffrey, J. M. and Monahan, C. (1999) Filamentous algal control using barley straw. Hydrobiologia 415, 315-318.

8. Everall, NC & Lees, DR (1996) The use of barley straw to control general and blue-green algal growth in a Derbyshire Reservoir. Water Research, 30:269-276.

9. Everall, NC & Lees, DR (1997) The identification and significance of chemicals released from decomposing barley straw during reservoir algal control. Water Research, 31:614-620

10. Gibson, MT. Welch, I, Barrett, PRF & Ridge, 1 (1990). Barley straw as an inhibitor of algal growth: Laboratory studies. Journal of Applied Phycology 2: 241-248.

11. James, H (1992) Investigations into the use of straw to control blue-green algal growth. Foundation for
Water Research, Allen House, The Listons, Liston Road, Marlow, Bucks. 5L7 lFD, UK
12. Martin D. & Ridge I. (1999) The relative sensitivity of algae to decomposing barley straw. Journal of Applied
Phycology 11, 285-291.
13. Newman, JR, Barrett, PRF (1993) Control of Microcystis aeruginosa by decomposing barley straw. Journal
of Aquatic Plant Management, 31: 203-206
14. Newman, JR (1994) Report on the control of growth of Microcystis aeruginosa by decomposing barley straw
and the development of a bankside straw digester. LACR-Aquatic Weeds Research Unit, Broadmoor Lane,
Sonning-on-Thames, Reading RG4 6TH, UK.
15. Newman, JR. Barrett, PRF, Cave, G (1993) The use of Barley Straw to control Algal Growth in Drainage
Ditches: An Ecological Survey. Loughborough Conference Paper.
16. Pillinger, JM, Cooper, IA, Ridge, I, & Barrett, PRE (1992) Barley straw as an inhibitor of algal growth III: the
role of fungal decomposition. Journal of Applied Phycology 4: 353-355
17. Pillinger, JM, Gilmour, I & Ridge, 1(1993) Control of algal growth by lignocellulosic material. FEMS
Symposium on Lignin Biodegradation and transformation. Biotechnical Applications, Lisbon. April 18-21.
pp. 57-58
18. Pillinger J.M., Cooper J.A., & Ridge I. (1994) Role of phenolic compounds in the antialgal activity of barley
straw. Journal of Chemical Ecology 20, 1557-1569.
19. Pillinger J.M., Cooper J.A., & Harding C.J. (1996) Stable free radicals from plant litter decomposing in
water. Journal of Chemical Ecology 22, 1001-1011.
20. Ridge, I & Barrett, PRF (1992) Algal control with barley straw. Aspects of Applied Biology 29. 457-462
21. Welch, I, Barrett, PRF, Gibson, MT & Ridge, 1 (1990) Barley straw as an inhibitor of algal growth I: studies
in the Chesterfield Canal. Journal of Applied Phycology 2: 231-239

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