Get The Facts On Harmful Algal Blooms

Nutrients play an essential role in algal blooms, but all of the contributing factors are not fully understood.

Published on: Sep 14, 2012

Potentially harmful algal blooms, or HABs, have become more prevalent throughout Ohio in recent years. These blooms on public waters have drawn much attention in the media, but are still a mystery to many people, says Eugene Braig, Ohio State University Extension aquatic ecosystems program director. 

The blooms, technically caused by blue-green algae/cyanobacteria, are not true algae at all, Braig says. 

He will cover some of the problems that can be caused by HABs, the organisms that cause them, factors that contribute to blooms, and how to keep family and pets safe from possible HAB poisoning, during a session titled "Harmful algal blooms," held Sept. 18 from 2 -3 p.m. during the Farm Science Review near London, Ohio. The program will be held at the Review's Gwynne Conservation Area. 

Get The Facts On Harmful Algal Blooms
Get The Facts On Harmful Algal Blooms

"HABs and their associated environmental problems are almost always directly linked to excessive nutrients in the water," Braig says. "Factors contributing to HABs are complex, but will always involve nutrients to fuel them." 

Warm temperatures, prolonged still water, low water levels and a lack of competition from other plants and true algae are conditions that further contribute to HAB growth, he says. 

"Farmers can potentially contribute to the problem through the runoff of fertilizer and soil nutrients," Braig says. 

Farmers can minimize their contribution to HABs by reducing runoff from and retaining nutrients within agricultural fields; maintaining buffer strips of native vegetation along streams, ditches and other surface waters; not giving livestock direct access to streams; and not applying fertilizers to frozen, impenetrable fields. 

"These are just some of the practices that can make a difference within the agricultural community," Braig says. 

In a related session, Robyn Wilson, assistant professor of risk analysis and decision science in  Ohio State's School of Environment and Natural Resources, will present "Nutrient loss and water quality: A survey of farmer opinion," from 11:30 a.m. to noon. The program also will take place at the Gwynne Conservation Area. 

Farm Science Review is sponsored by Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OSU Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Pre-show tickets are $5 at all OSU Extension county offices. Tickets are also available at local agribusinesses. Tickets are $8 at the gate. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 18-19 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20. 

For more information, see http://fsr.osu.edu. For the latest news and updates, follow Farm Science Review on Twitter (@OhioStateFSR) and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FarmScienceReview