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Field-evolved resistance to Bt maize by western corn rootworm: Predictions from the laboratory and effects in the field

Gassmann, Aaron J.
Journal of invertebrate pathology 2012 v.110 no.3 pp. 287-293
Bacillus thuringiensis, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, commercialization, computer simulation, corn, crops, crystal proteins, evolution, genetic analysis, greenhouses, insect pests, insecticidal proteins, insecticides, integrated pest management, prediction, risk, roots, simulation models, soil, toxins, transgenic plants, Iowa
Crops engineered to produce insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) provide an effective management tool for many key insect pests. However, pest species have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to adapt to management practices. Results from laboratory selection experiments illustrate the capacity of pest species to evolve Bt resistance. Furthermore, resistance has been documented to Bt sprays in the field and greenhouse, and more recently, by some pests to Bt crops in the field. In 2009, fields were discovered in Iowa (USA) with populations of western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte, that had evolved resistance to maize that produces the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. Fields with resistant insects in 2009 had been planted to Cry3Bb1 maize for at least three consecutive years and as many as 6years. Computer simulation models predicted that the western corn rootworm might evolve resistance to Bt maize in as few as 3years. Laboratory and field data for interactions between western corn rootworm and Bt maize indicate that currently commercialized products are not high-dose events, which increases the risk of resistance evolution because non-recessive resistance traits may enhance survival on Bt maize. Furthermore, genetic analysis of laboratory strains of western corn rootworm has found non-recessive inheritance of resistance. Field studies conducted in two fields identified as harboring Cry3Bb1-resistant western corn rootworm found that survival of western corn rootworm did not differ between Cry3Bb1 maize and non-Bt maize and that root injury to Cry3Bb1 maize was higher than injury to other types of Bt maize or to maize roots protected with a soil insecticide. These first cases of field-evolved resistance to Bt maize by western corn rootworm provide an early warning and point to the need to apply better integrated pest management practices when using Bt maize to manage western corn rootworm.