ODC – Beetle Prevention Game Changer or Wishful Thinking

2/12/2010

The Holy Grail of mountain pine beetle prevention is to create a natural or organic substance that prevents mountain pine beetle (mpb) while doing no damage to wildlife, water and humans.

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Unfortunately past products that promised this haven’t worked well enough. Pheromones, fertilization and integrated tree care all help. However, none of these methods have been as effective as chemical pesticides.

According to an article by North Forty News,  AgriHouse of Berthoud, Colo. is testing a new, natural MPB prevention product, called ODC, aimed at breaking through where others have failed.

Richard Stoner, president of AgriHouse, tells the North Forty News that  “the product was originally developed for NASA to help ‘grow plants in a closed loop system.’  Stoner does not claim any magic solution to the beetle infestation. He describes ODC as ‘a tool in the IPM (integrated pest management) toolbox.’ ”

ODC  testing is being done on a sample of 90 pine tree seedlings in Larimer County, Colorado.  AgriHouse cites a Forest Service study that shows a correlation between increased resin and a reduction in the amount of bark beetle eggs.

George Biedenstein, staff arborist at ArborScape Inc. found a  hole in the company’s test method.

“Pine beetles do not attack seedlings anyway,”  Biedenstein said.  ” They mainly attack older trees over 8 inches in diameter. So I could pour pink lemonade around pine seedlings and they also wouldn’t get pine beetle.”

Generally in a mountain setting, pine trees take anywhere from 5 to 7  years to attain the size that attracts a mountain pine beetle colony.  So it could be a decade before this study garners any data.  Studies done on stands of pine trees in Norway, France and Florida have shown that chitosan based products do slow down the blue stain fungus that many arborists believe causes the host pine tree to perish.

ODC is designed to strengthen a pine tree’s ability to resist the mountain pine beetle. ODC uses chitosan which helps pine trees produce more resin.  Studies of bark beetle activity have shown that trees with more resin are not as an attractive host to MPB eggs.

However it all sounds like wishful thinking to us. What do you think?

Matt Johnson is a blogger and reporter covering arboricultural and tree care issues.  He writes for Mountain Pine Beetle Treatment and ArborScape.

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