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Multitrophic interactions involving genetically modified potatoes, nontarget aphids, natural enemies and hyperparasitoids


S. Cowgill. Fax: +44 133343 3144; E-mail:


Genetically modified (GM) potatoes expressing a cysteine proteinase inhibitor (cystatin) have been developed as an option for the management of plant parasitic nematodes. The relative impact of such plants on predators and parasitoids (natural enemies) of nontarget insects was determined in a field trial. The trial consisted of GM plants, control plants grown in soil treated with a nematicide and untreated control plants. The quantity of nontarget aphids and their quality as hosts for natural enemies were studied. Aphid density was significantly reduced by nematicide treatment and few natural enemies were recorded from treated potatoes during the study. In contrast, similar numbers of aphids and their more adundant predators were recorded from the untreated control and the GM potatoes. The size of aphids on GM and control plants was recorded twice during the study. During the first sampling period (2–9 July) aphids clip-caged on GM plants were smaller than those on control plants. During the second sampling period (23–30 July) there was no difference in aphid size between those from the GM and control plants. Host size is an important component of host quality. It can affect the size and fecundity of parasitoid females and the sex ratio of their offspring. However, neither the fitness of females of Aphidius ervi, the most prevalent primary parasitoid, nor the sex ratio of their progeny, were affected when the parasitoids developed on aphids feeding on GM plants. Two guilds of secondary parasitoid were also recorded during the study. The fitness of the most abundant species, Aspahes vulgaris, was not affected when it developed on hosts from GM plants. The transgene product, OC IΔD86, was not detected in aphids that had fed on GM plants in the field, suggesting that there is minimal secondary exposure of natural enemies to the inhibitor. The results indicate that transgenic nematode resistance is potentially more compatible with aphid biological control than is current nematicide use.