Seasonal Declines in Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab Concentration in Maturing Cotton Favor Faster Evolution of Resistance to Pyramided Bt Cotton in Helicoverpa zea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Yves Carrière, Ben Degain, Gopalan C. Unnithan, Virginia S. Harpold, Xianchun Li, Bruce E. Tabashnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Under ideal conditions, widely adopted transgenic crop pyramids producing two or more distinct insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kill the same pest can substantially delay evolution of resistance by pests. However, deviations from ideal conditions diminish the advantages of such pyramids. Here, we tested the hypothesis that changes in maturing cotton producing Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab affect evolution of resistance in Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), a pest with low inherent susceptibility to both toxins. In terminal leaves of field-grown Bt cotton, the concentration of both toxins was significantly higher for young, squaring plants than for old, fruiting plants. We used laboratory bioassays with plant material from field-grown cotton to test H. zea larvae from a strain selected for resistance to Cry1Ac in the laboratory, its more susceptible parent strain, and their F1 progeny. On young Bt cotton, no individuals survived to pupation. On old Bt cotton, survival to pupation was significantly higher for the lab-selected strain and the F1 progeny relative to the unselected parent strain, indicating dominant inheritance of resistance. Redundant killing, the extent to which insects resistant to one toxin are killed by another toxin in a pyramid, was complete on young Bt cotton, but not on old Bt cotton. No significant fitness costs associated with resistance were detected on young or old non-Bt cotton. Incorporation of empirical data into simulations indicates the observed increased selection for resistance on old Bt cotton could accelerate evolution of resistance to cotton producing Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab in H. zea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2907-2914
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of economic entomology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 9 2019



  • Bt crop
  • dominance of resistance
  • fitness cost
  • pyramided Bt cotton
  • redundant killing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science

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