Monday, July 14, 2014

John Barleycorn To The Rescue

Rhode Island Nurseries barley field
 There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

Last month's trip to Massachusetts gave opportunity to drive by farms and nurseries on Rhode Island.  When I passed this field, it was striking to see the varying hues of blue, green, and gold, waving with the summer's breeze.

I couldn't identify the blue haze of the color-partitioned grasses growing so I stopped in at the farm, only to find out it was the Rhode Island Nurseries.  I talked with Jesse Rodriguez, the General Manager and found out that the fields were a mixture of last year's rye along with barley for their new project:  growing barley as a non-chemical approach to inhibit algae in ponds.


Reducing algae by throwing bales of barley into the water is a growing trend.  Not only environmentally friendly but also inexpensive way to control algae without using chemicals.  As barley straw decomposes in water with sufficient oxygen, sunlight, and heat, algae growth is restricted but not killed. It is not a algaecide but a biological alternative. It is safe for fish and wildlife.

Here's to John Barleycorn's fatality as a legacy as a biological alternative to help protect our water! I'll drink to that!

John Barleycorn Green Man

A big thanks to Jesse Rodriguez for being so helpful to a stranger in the parking lot.

Additional links:

The history and EPA's view of using barley as algae control. - Purdue University

Penn State University barley study

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District, New York on barley

Harvesting barley

Never heard of John Barleycorn or the cycle of his life?  Here's Robert Burns poem to the crop's legacy.

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