Development, Survival and Fitness Performance of Helicoverpa zea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in MON810 Bt Field Corn

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Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) development, survival, and feeding injury in MON810 transgenic ears of field corn (Zea mays L.) expressing Bacillus thuringiensis variety kurstaki (Bt) Cry1Ab endotoxins were compared with non-Bt ears at four geographic locations over two growing seasons. Expression of Cry1Ab endotoxin resulted in overall reductions in the percentage of damaged ears by 33% and in the amount of kernels consumed by 60%. Bt-induced effects varied significantly among locations, partly because of the overall level and timing of H. zea infestations, condition of silk tissue at the time of egg hatch, and the possible effects of plant stress. Larvae feeding on Bt ears produced scattered, discontinuous patches of partially consumed kernels, which were arranged more linearly than the compact feeding patterns in non-Bt ears. The feeding patterns suggest that larvae in Bt ears are moving about sampling kernels more frequently than larvae in non-Bt ears. Because not all kernels express the same level of endotoxin, the spatial heterogeneity of toxin distribution within Bt ears may provide an opportunity for development of behavioral responses in H. zea to avoid toxin. MON810 corn suppressed the establishment and development of H. zea to late instars by at least 75%. This level of control is considered a moderate dose, which may increase the risk of resistance development in areas where MON810 corn is widely adopted and H. zea overwinters successfully. Sublethal effects of MON810 corn resulted in prolonged larval and prepupal development, smaller pupae, and reduced fecundity of H. zea. The moderate dose effects and the spatial heterogeneity of toxin distribution among kernels could increase the additive genetic variance for both physiological and behavioral resistance in H. zea populations. Implications of localized population suppression are discussed.

Keywords: Helicoverpa zea; moderate dose; plant resistance; transgenic corn

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2003

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