Two Colorado State University emeritus professors, working with Berthoud-based AgriHouse Inc., have helped develop a new eco-friendly, EPA-registered biopesticide that can protect pine trees from bark beetles – a major threat in Colorado and across Western states.
Dr. Jim Linden, Professor Emeritus of the Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology departments, and Dr. Ken Knutson, Associate Professor Emeritus of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, helped create Organic Disease Control, a patented formula that increases the sap produced by pine trees. The increase in sap resin boosts tree resistance to the pine beetles by reducing their ability to lay eggs in pine trees.
“Initial studies completed in Louisiana with the U.S. Forest Service have shown that trees produce 40 percent more sap, which is the tree’s natural defense against pine beetles and the blue stain fungal pathogen they carry,” said Richard Stoner, president and CEO of AgriHouse, an agri-biotechnology company that is manufacturing and marketing Organic Disease Control, or ODC. “The ODC formula provides an organic treatment solution to increase the tree’s resistance to the pine beetle infestation, a problem that to date only nature has been able to address through forest fires and lightning.”
ODC includes chitosan, the exoskeleton of shellfish, as its principal ingredient. The AgriHouse team holds a patent on the ability of chitosan to induce a defense response by all plants.
It was Dr. Linden’s research that recognized ODC molecules “fit inside” receptors attached to the surface of cells in the tree root. According to Dr. Knutson, these root networks thrive in the top soil nearest to the tree’s drip ring, for example the soil directly under the tree branches. Once the molecule adheres to the receptor, a switch is activated in the plant cell that elicits chemical responses throughout the plant and increases plant health, stimulates photosynthesis, and overcomes environmental stresses such as beetle attacks and blue stain fungus infection.
“We’ve developed an environmentally friendly product that we believe will begin to address the pine-beetle epidemic across Colorado,” Dr. Linden said. “The 2008 U.S. Forest Service Study showed the elevated sap output using ODC has the potential to reduce about 37 percent of the pine beetle eggs in treated trees.”