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GM Crops Food. 2012 Jul-Sep;3(3):235-44. doi: 10.4161/gmcr.20744. Epub 2012 Jul 1.

Western corn rootworm and Bt maize: challenges of pest resistance in the field.

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Department of Entomology; Iowa State University; Ames, IA, USA.


Crops genetically engineered to produce insecticidal toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) manage many key insect pests while reducing the use of conventional insecticides. One of the primary pests targeted by Bt maize in the United States is the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte. Beginning in 2009, populations of western corn rootworm were identified in Iowa, USA that imposed severe root injury to Cry3Bb1 maize. Subsequent laboratory bioassays revealed that these populations were resistant to Cry3Bb1 maize, with survival on Cry3Bb1 maize that was three times higher than populations not associated with such injury. Here we report the results of research that began in 2010 when western corn rootworm were sampled from 14 fields in Iowa, half of which had root injury to Cry3Bb1 maize of greater than 1 node. Of these samples, sufficient eggs were collected to conduct bioassays on seven populations. Laboratory bioassays revealed that these 2010 populations had survival on Cry3Bb1 maize that was 11 times higher and significantly greater than that of control populations, which were brought into the laboratory prior to the commercialization of Bt maize for control of corn rootworm. Additionally, the developmental delays observed for control populations on Cry3Bb1 maize were greatly diminished for 2010 populations. All 2010 populations evaluated in bioassays came from fields with a history of continuous maize production and between 3 and 7 y of Cry3Bb1 maize cultivation. Resistance to Cry34/35Ab1 maize was not detected and there was no correlation between survival on Cry3Bb1 maize and Cry34/35Ab1 maize, suggesting a lack of cross resistance between these Bt toxins. Effectively dealing with the challenge of field-evolved resistance to Bt maize by western corn rootworm will require better adherence to the principles of integrated pest management.

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