Barley straw as an inhibitor of algal growth I: studies in the Chesterfield Canal


The presence of rotting barley straw in a dis used canal reduced the amount of filamentous algae. No effect on algae was observed during the first season after the introduction of straw but algae were decreased in three subsequent years. Algal growth on microscope slides suspended in the water downstream of the straw was reduced by 90%, compared with slides upstream of the straw. A similar result was obtained forCladophora glomerata grown in chambers in the canal.

Phosphate, nitrate and ammonium concentrations were not altered significantly by the presence of straw, but nitrite concentrations were increased during summer months. Neither the nitrite increase, nor the possibility of pesticides being washed off the straw were considered likely causes of algal growth inhibition. Growth ofC. glomerata was inhibited in cages from which macro-invertebrate grazers were excluded. No obvious deleterious environmental effects were noted and the technique shows promise as a long-term method of controlling algae.

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Welch, I.M., Barrett, P.R.F., Gibson, M.T. et al. Barley straw as an inhibitor of algal growth I: studies in the Chesterfield Canal. J Appl Phycol 2, 231–239 (1990).

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Key words

  • straw
  • algal inhibition
  • Cladophora glomerata