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Spring Pond Management

Excessive algae growth is one of the most common problems occurring in ponds in Virginia. Now is the time to implement algae control strategies for the season. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to control algae in early or mid-summer after algae has started to grow.

Periodic treatments starting now and continuing through the summer with appropriate doses of copper are safe for fish and humans and effective in controlling algae. Additional information on copper products for algae control and control of other aquatic weeds is available at the Rockbridge Extension office.

In recent years, the use of barley straw has become more common as an alternative method for controlling excessive algae growth. This method has been extensively studied by Dr. Jonathan Newman at the Centre for Aquatic Plant Management in Great Britain.

Barley straw does not kill existing algae, but it inhibits the new growth of algae. The exact mechanism is poorly understood, but it seems that barley straw, when exposed to sunlight and in the presence of oxygen, produces a chemical that inhibits algae growth. Barley straw does not reduce the growth of other aquatic plants. In fact, in some cases aquatic plant growth has increased after barley straw applications because algae are no longer present to compete with the aquatic plants.

Barley straw is most effective when applied early in the year prior to the appearance of algae. When applied to cold water (less than 50°F), it may take six to eight weeks for the straw to begin producing the active chemicals that inhibit algae growth. If the straw is applied to warmer water (above 70°F), it may become effective in as little as one to two weeks. In any case, barley straw remains effective for ap-proximately six months after application.

The most common application is about two to three bales per surface acre of pond (or about 1 pound for every 144 square feet of surface area). The depth of water in the pond is not important. In ponds that are frequently muddy or those that have a history of heavy algae growth, two or three times this recommended dose may be required for the initial treatment. However, overdosing the pond with barley straw may cause fish kills because the straw deoxygenates the water as it decays. This is especially a problem if the pond is overdosed with straw during a prolonged warm spell.

This week’s column is provided primarily by Bryan Swistock, a senior Extension associate with Penn State University. A complete copy of his publication as well as information on how to identify barley straw and other methods of aquatic weed control are available at the Rockbridge Extension office.

Plan To Care For Your Animals

The past two weeks have brought circumstances and demands to Rockbridge most of us have never experienced. I for one have confidence in our medical experts and scientists and believe we are on the right track to slow the spread of COVID-19 so our health care system can continue to perform as it needs to.

Now is a good time to develop plans to ensure essential farm tasks are accomplished and our animals are cared for in the event we experience debilitating illness that prevents us from doing daily chores for a period of time. Observations up to this point indicate the severity of a COVID-19 infection range from relatively mild to very severe with most infected people experiencing significant distress and inability to engage in even lowlevel activity for three days to two weeks or longer. If you become sick, you may dangerously prolong your illness and endanger others if you attempt to do the farm chores yourself while sick.

Here are some steps you can take now just in case you need someone to care for your livestock or other farm assets. First, identify and discuss contingencies with at least two other people outside of your household, who can be on “stand-by” to care for your farm and livestock if necessary.

Second, develop a written list of where all your animals are with clear directions, an inventory list, and the regular care they require. This is especially important for farms that keep livestock at multiple locations. This list needs to be known and accessible by your identified stand-by helpers. For most farmers, this inventory and location of animals is very much subject to change in the spring with livestock that are birthing and/or being moved from winter feeding grounds to spring pasture. For some, a dry erase board with updated instructions posted in the barn or farm shop can be a useful tool in accomplishing this. Because the third point is that this plan will require regular updating and communication with your “stand-by” farm help.

There are many aspects of emergency preparedness of which we should all be aware. Excellent resources for emergency preparedness are available online from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and specific to the COVID-19 threat from the Center for Disease Control at: https://www.cdc.gov/ coronavirus/2019-ncov/index. html.

If you do not have access to the internet, would like to obtain printed material related to emergency preparedness, or would like assistance in developing contingency plans, the Rockbridge Extension office is open and Extension agents are available for individual consulting. Contact the Rockbridge Extension office at 463-4734 or via email at stanleyt@vt.edu.

The News-Gazette

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P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
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