Extended Sentinel Monitoring of Helicoverpa zea Resistance to Cry and Vip3Aa Toxins in Bt Sweet Corn: Assessing Changes in Phenotypic and Allele Frequencies of Resistance

Abstract

Transgenic corn and cotton that produce Cry and Vip3Aa toxins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are widely planted in the United States to control lepidopteran pests. The sustainability of these Bt crops is threatened because the corn earworm/bollworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), is evolving a resistance to these toxins. Using Bt sweet corn as a sentinel plant to monitor the evolution of resistance, collaborators established 146 trials in twenty-five states and five Canadian provinces during 2020–2022. The study evaluated overall changes in the phenotypic frequency of resistance (the ratio of larval densities in Bt ears relative to densities in non-Bt ears) in H. zea populations and the range of resistance allele frequencies for Cry1Ab and Vip3Aa. The results revealed a widespread resistance to Cry1Ab, Cry2Ab2, and Cry1A.105 Cry toxins, with higher numbers of larvae surviving in Bt ears than in non-Bt ears at many trial locations. Depending on assumptions about the inheritance of resistance, allele frequencies for Cry1Ab ranged from 0.465 (dominant resistance) to 0.995 (recessive resistance). Although Vip3Aa provided high control efficacy against H. zea, the results show a notable increase in ear damage and a number of surviving older larvae, particularly at southern locations. Assuming recessive resistance, the estimated resistance allele frequencies for Vip3Aa ranged from 0.115 in the Gulf states to 0.032 at more northern locations. These findings indicate that better resistance management practices are urgently needed to sustain efficacy the of corn and cotton that produce Vip3Aa.

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Dively, G.P.; Kuhar, T.P.; Taylor, S.V.; Doughty, H.; Holmstrom, K.; Gilrein, D.O.; Nault, B.A.; Ingerson-Mahar, J.; Huseth, A.; Reisig, D.; Fleischer, S.; Owens, D.; Tilmon, K.; Reay-Jones, F.; Porter, P.; Smith, J.; Saguez, J.; Wells, J.; Congdon, C.; Byker, H.; Jensen, B.; DiFonzo, C.; Hutchison, W.D.; Burkness, E.; Wright, R.; Crossley, M.; Darby, H.; Bilbo, T.; Seiter, N.; Krupke, C.; Abel, C.; Coates, B.S.; McManus, B.; Fuller, B.; Bradshaw, J.; Peterson, J.A.; Buntin, D.; Paula-Moraes, S.; Kesheimer, K.; Crow, W.; Gore, J.; Huang, F.; Ludwick, D.C.; Raudenbush, A.; Jimenez, S.; Carrière, Y.; Elkner, T.; Hamby, K. Extended Sentinel Monitoring of Helicoverpa zea Resistance to Cry and Vip3Aa Toxins in Bt Sweet Corn: Assessing Changes in Phenotypic and Allele Frequencies of Resistance. Insects 2023, 14, 577.