Barley Straw: The Efficient and Effective Algae Treatment

Published: 29th April 2010
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Barley straw has been used since 1990's for pond management as effective and cost-efficient treatment for algae. Algae strip out the nutrients and the oxygen in the pond that can lead to destruction of marine life. However, the barley straw releases certain chemicals that slow down the growth of algae.

Barley straws are healthy for fish and other aquatic animals, and serve as algae remover. For many years, barley straws are used in removing algae from ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. When algae decompose, they deplete the oxygen in the pond that can kill fish and other marine animals. The barley straw helps boost the pond's oxygen level and prevent the spread of disease on fish that lead to healthier and more beautiful pond.

How barley straw is applied?

Scientists have still not determined the exact amount of barley straw needed to control the algae growth; however, several experts claim that it would take 6-8 weeks to see the results of barley straw, but it could only take 1-2 weeks when the temperature reaches 68°F or above.

There are various recommendations on the application of barley straw based on the experiences of English fish farmers and pond owners. Some of the most important considerations in the application of barley straw are as follows:

• Do not just throw the bales of barley directly in the water. The bales must be torn in small pieces to allow the air and water circulate freely through the straw. This helps generate enough oxygen to compete with the decomposing algae. Keep in mind that algae infested water needs proper aeration - and this can be achieved by using smaller bales of barley straw. However, tight or unbroken bales are useless because they do not release enough oxygen for aeration.

• The most recommended dosage is 225 pounds of barley per acre or equivalent to 5 bales. Barley straw works in shallow water, about four to five feet in depth, but it can also work in deeper water although the maximum depths are not yet ascertained

• Don't expect too much. Barley straw treatment does not give immediate effects. It only prevents new algae growth, but it does not kill the algae that have already accumulated in the pond. However, applying barley straw earlier before March or April-the peak seasons of algae-- is a good prevention. Dr. J. Newman, an English researcher, said that barley straws last for the maximum of 6 month; thus, a periodic barley replacement is needed for maintenance.

Are there side effects?

Barley straw, when first applied, can give a greenish color to the water. It actually takes months to see the positive results of using barley straw. In some cases, the decomposing straw releases carbon that can trigger the growth of algae instead of preventing it off. This occurs when excessive straw has been added in the pond.

Where can I buy barley straws?

Bales of barley straw are available in almost all garden centres and water treatment companies. They are usually packaged together with a cork to keep the barley straw from floating on the surface of the pond; others are packaged within mesh bags for easier application. They come in 3 ½ inches x 8 ½ inches and other varied sizes when sold in the market. As of 2010, the cost of barley straw, which can treat a maximum of 2,000 gallons of water, ranges from $30 - $50.

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