1 Three years of field experiments in Eastern Australia were carried out on transgenic cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) event Cot102 expressing the insecticidal protein gene vip3A from Bacillus thuringiensis to evaluate performance against Helicoverpa armigera Hübner. Efficacy, defined as the capacity of plant tissues to induce larval mortality, was determined with a well-validated leaf bioassay fortnightly through the growth cycle of the cotton in each season.
2 Cot102 plants proved highly efficacious against H. armigera, particularly early in the season, although their efficacy declined as the season progressed, in a manner similar to, but not as dramatic as, that observed with commercial Cry1Ac expressing cotton (Bollgard or Ingard cotton).
3 Field surveys indicated that very few larvae survived beyond first instar on intact growing plants.
4 In one season efficacy declined for a period of approximately 20 days after a cool wet period, suggesting that this may have had a detrimental effect on the expression or efficacy of the gene, but this will need to be verified in further replicated trials.
5 Quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays indicated that there was no dramatic reduction in production of the vip3A protein during growth and maturation of the crop, suggesting that other host plant factors were affecting the efficacy of the insecticidal protein in the insect gut.
6 These data indicate that Cot102 cotton would provide a useful alternative to Bollgard cotton but, given the similar lytic mode of action of vip3A proteins in the insect midgut, there may be similar inherent vulnerabilities to resistance evolution for these proteins if used alone. Pyramiding of the vip3A trait with a second insecticidal gene would appear to be a high priority for achieving sustainable deployment against H. armigera or similar susceptible species.