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Keywords:

  • insect-resistant corn;
  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt);
  • herbicide-tolerant (HT) corn;
  • BtHT;
  • Asian corn borer;
  • secondary pest

Abstract

Background

The Asian corn borer (ACB), Ostrinia furnacalis (Guenée), has become the most damaging pest in corn in south-east Asia. Corn farmers in the Philippines have incurred great yield losses in the past decades because of ACB infestation. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and Bt herbicide-tolerant (BtHT) corns have been developed to reduce borer attacks worldwide. This study assessed the extent of ACB and non-ACB pest infestations in both GM and non-GM corn in Isabela Province, the Philippines. Specific aims were to reinvestigate the efficacy of Bt corn in controlling ACB, to evaluate what parts of Bt corn plants are susceptible to ACB, to monitor the potential development of ACB resistance and to evaluate whether secondary pests dominate in an ACB-free Bt corn environment. The study involved preparatory interviews with farmers, site selection, field scouting and visual inspection of 200 plants along 200 m transect lines through 198 cornfields.

Results

Bt corn can efficiently reduce the ACB pest problem and reduce borer damage by 44%, to damage levels in Bt and BtHT corn of 6.8 and 7% respectively. The leaves of Bt corn were more susceptible, while cobs of Bt corn were less affected by ACB. Non-ACB pests were common in Bt toxin-free cornfields and reduced in non-GM cornfields where ACB was abundant. No secondary pest outbreaks were found in ACB-free Bt cornfields.

Conclusion

Bt and BtHT corn hybrids containing the Cry1Ab protein performed well in Isabela Province. Reduced cob damage by ACB on Bt fields could mean smaller economic losses even with ACB infestation. The occurrence of ACB in Bt and BtHT cornfields, although at a moderate and insignificant level, could imply the potential development of resistance to Bt toxin. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry