I write to communicate the correct information on research conducted by a student of mine at Killarney Lake in the spring/summer of 2001.
Jeremy Ross, the student involved was a resident of Killarney. The title of his paper was “Inhibitory Effects of Barley Straw on Algae in a Prairie Water Body.” This study was not carried out in the lake but in cell 3 of the decommissioned sewage lagoon cell No. 3; cells 1 and 2 acted as controls. Measurements of physical and chemical parameters were monitored in the three cells throughout the summer and algal and other biota were identified and quantified during the experiment.
Blue-green (cyanobacterial) species of major concern in the adjacent Killarney Lake were completely inhibited throughout the experimental summer period in cell 3. This cell had total phosphate levels comparable with those measured in the lake in the summer of 2011 by John Clark and Brayden Pugh (BU Outreach Project).
Jeremy then planned to test the barley straw the next season in the beach area of the lake. This test was prohibited by Manitoba Environment officials citing unknown effects on other organisms, this despite Jeremy’s data that biodiversity of birds, amphibians and invertebrates increased during the summer in the vicinity of the floating barley straw containers.
This technology developed first in Scotland in late 1980s, with research over the next 15 years demonstrating the effectiveness of aerobically decomposing barley straw at inhibiting the growth of many nuisance algal species in streams, rivers, ponds and lakes.
Researchers in Europe also found no toxic impacts on fish, invertebrates or vertebrates. So unfortunately despite Jeremy’s convincing results barley straw has never been allowed to be tested in the lake.
Dr. Bill Paton
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 7, 2012