Blue green algae ruined the rest of my summer.  Our 89,000-acre playground, Lake Texoma, recently was closed due to an outbreak of the dreaded algae.  Contact with water is prohibited.

This was devastating since my family spends much time on and in the lake.  Especially heartbroken was my three-year-old daughter whose favorite thing is “go to islands”.

The event prompted curiosity about blue green or planktonic algae and what causes harmful outbreaks.  You have seen this growth; in fact, it’s in your pond now.  Ever see what resembles lime blue-green paint on the surface.  If so, you are witnessing a blue green algae bloom.

Blue green algae are interesting. Normally, when people hear algae, they think of plants and rightfully so, most algae are plants.  However, the blue green variety is a cyanobacterium. This bacterium has a photosynthetic part.  It is a prokaryote that can behave like a plant and create its own food source.

Cyanobacteria grow in warm water that has very little movement, especially during a drought.  Warm, dry conditions lead to blue green algae outbreaks.  All water contains cyanobacteria.  Issues arise when bacteria grows exponentially.  As bacterium grows, it produces toxins. Some can be harmful, even fatal, to livestock, family pets and humans.  The severity depends on species of cyanobacteria present.  There are hundreds of different species and toxins. You can’t kill a toxin.  Even if bacteria are managed, they still can release toxins into a body of water.  Cyanobacteria are very important organisms.  They are one of few organisms that can fix inert or nitrogen into nitrate, a basic building block of life.

So what can we do?  We manage blue green algae with GreenClean and Cutrine Plus granular.  Call if you observe the “blue-green slick”.  Quick action can save damaging results.—Chad Fikes, fisheries biologist