By Laurie Hindman
AgriHouse, a Berthoud-based company specializing in aeroponics and bio-controls, is battling one of the west’s most insidious pests, the pine beetle. More specifically, AgriHouse has developed an organic, non-toxic agent called ODC (organic disease control) that stimulates the natural immune response of pine trees, causing them to produce more resin. The increased resin production forces the beetle out of the trees and helps the trees resist the spread of the deadly blue fungus carried by the beetle.
One does not have to travel far into the Rocky Mountains to witness the devastation caused by these beetles; that devastation has crossed the Continental Divide and acres of the brown-red dead and dying pine trees are cropping up in large swaths in Estes Park, Red Feather Lakes and other areas of the Eastern Slope. Drought and mild winters have helped the pine beetles thrive; with normal amounts of moisture, pine trees produce enough resin on their own to thwart large infestations of pine beetles.
The rice-sized beetles do their damage by burrowing into pine trees to lay eggs. Once the larvae hatch, they continue to burrow and feed, leaving the telltale ring of blue fungus; it is this fungus that ultimately causes the tree to die. Traditional treatment involves broad spraying of toxic pesticide that is harmful to other wildlife and may pollute water systems.
Rick Stoner, president and founder of AgriHouse describes himself as an entrepreneur and inventor. He and his wife, Joyce, a former BHS teacher, have lived in Berthoud for 19 years and put two kids through Berthoud schools. AgriHouse began in his basement — “garage technology” said Stoner — but has been in its current location at 307 Welch Avenue for more than five years. He is nationally known for his aeroponics systems and leaf sensor technology and has received numerous grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation. Stoner works with Colorado State University microbiologist Dr. Jim Linden, and CSU plant pathologist Dr. Ken Knutson. “We have created leading-edge technology,” said Stoner.
The biological pesticide ODC is colloidal chitosan, made from the shells of crustaceans. A one-ounce bottle, when mixed with the appropriate amount of water, can treat up to 30 trees. According to Stoner, one drop of ODC contains over 5,000 trillion molecules of the active agent. Treatment involves simply spraying the solution on the branches and needles. “ODC binds to the surface of the plant and acts as a switch, activating the immune system,” explained Stoner. He stated that trees begin responding immediately, with a noticeable increase in resin usually within 30 to 45 days of application.
ODC is fully patented and has been tested and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. In one series of tests by the U.S. Forest Service in July of 2008, ODC was found to cause a 40 percent increase in resin production in lodge pole pines and a 37 percent reduction in pine beetle egg production.
ODC is currently only available on AgriHouse’s Web site www.AgriHouse.com, but Stoner hopes to have it on store shelves soon. The one-ounce bottle sells for $14.99. Richard Stoner and AgriHouse can be reached at 970-532-3554.
“There is nothing like it in the world,” said Stoner.
<p>AgriHouse founder and president Richard Stoner in his laboratory on Welch Avenue. Stoner has developed the product ODC, which has proven effective in fighting the devastation to pine trees caused by pine beetles.</p>
<p>The telltale blue-ring caused by a fungus carried by the pine beetle. It is this fungus that kills the pine trees.</p>