Thursday, July 24, 2014

Watch out for blue-green algae blooms

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Agri-News

The recent hot weather across the province has raised concerns about blue-green algae blooms in dugouts.

“Blue-green algae is actually cyanobacteria, and can produce toxins that can be very dangerous,” says Melissa Orr-Langner, agricultural water engineer, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Edmonton. “It can cause organ damage or even death if ingested by humans, livestock or pets.”

Orr-Langer says blue-green algae can often be hard to identify. “Some people say it looks like pea soup or grass clippings suspended in the water. They may even see some scum with a blue-green tinge dried up on the beach or shoreline.”

If blue-green algae is suspected in a dugout, it’s best to err on the side of caution, says Orr-Langner.

“Don’t swim or bathe in the water and remove your livestock from it. Don’t consume the water even if treated, and that includes fish from the water, and don’t use the water on your vegetable garden,” says Orr-Langner. “You should also contact an Alberta Agriculture water specialist at 310-FARM (3276) for assistance.”

The dugout can be treated using a copper product registered for use on cyanobacteria. “Once you treat the algae, you need to avoid the water for at least two weeks,” says Orr-Langner. “Once the bacterium dies, the cell structure breaks down and releases the toxins into the water, so it’s vital to stay away from the water while this is happening.”

She says the best recommendation is to be proactive. “Aerate all of your dugouts, especially ones livestock drink from. Adding that extra oxygen into the water will help break down the nutrients and reduce the number of algae blooms.”

Funding is available for aeration systems, as well as for new dugouts and dugout expansion, under the Growing Forward 2 On-Farm Water Management Program.

For more information on blue-green algae, call the Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276)

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