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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of Transgenic Bt Cotton on Insecticide Use and Predatory Insect Abundance

Authors
item Sisterson, Mark
item Biggs, Robert - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Manhardt, Nancy - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Carriere, Yves - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Dennehy, Timothy - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Tabashnik, Bruce - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Submitted to: Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 28, 2007
Publication Date: August 16, 2007
Citation: Sisterson, M.S., Biggs, R.W., Manhardt, N.M., Carriere, Y., Dennehy, T.J., Tabashnik, B.E. 2007. Effects of Transgenic Bt Cotton on Insecticide Use and Predatory Insect Abundance. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. 124:305-311.

Interpretive Summary: Crops genetically modified to produce Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins are planted throughout the United States to control a variety of arthropod pests. There is concern that such crops could harm non-target arthropods. However, if Bt crops reduce the need to apply insecticides, the planting of Bt crops could in fact benefit many non-target arthropods. We analyzed data from 21 commercial cotton fields in Arizona to test the effects of Bt cotton on insecticide use and abundance of two non-target insects, the generalist predators Chrysoperla carnea Stephens (Chrysopidae: Neuroptera) and Orius tristicolor (White) (Heteroptera: Anthocoridae). The number of insecticide sprays was more than double for non-Bt cotton fields compared to Bt cotton fields. The abundance of both predators decreased with the number of insecticide sprays, although significantly so for only one of two sampling periods for each species tested. Accordingly, the abundance of C. carnea was higher in Bt cotton fields than in non-Bt cotton fields, but significantly so during only one of two sampling periods. The abundance of O. tristicolor did not differ between field types. The results indicate that Bt crops can affect insecticide use, which in turn can affect the relative abundance of non-target arthropods in Bt and non-Bt fields. Thus, environmental impact assessment should incorporate analysis of the effects of transgenic crops on management practices, as well as evaluation of the direct effects of such crops.

Technical Abstract: Considerable effort has been expended to determine if crops genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins harm non-target arthropods. However, if Bt crops kill target pests and thereby reduce insecticide use, this could benefit some non-target arthropods. We analyzed data from 21 commercial cotton fields in Arizona to test the effects of Bt cotton on insecticide use and abundance of two non-target insects, the generalist predators Chrysoperla carnea Stephens (Chrysopidae: Neuroptera) and Orius tristicolor (White) (Heteroptera: Anthocoridae). The number of insecticide sprays was more than double for non-Bt cotton fields compared to Bt cotton fields. The abundance of both predators was negatively associated with the number of insecticide sprays, although significantly so for only one of two sampling periods for each species tested. With the effects of insecticides statistically removed, field type (Bt or non-Bt cotton) did not affect the abundance of either predator. Accordingly, without adjusting for the effects of insecticide sprays, the abundance of C. carnea was higher in Bt cotton fields than in non-Bt cotton fields, but significantly so during only one of two sampling periods. The abundance of O. tristicolor did not differ between field types, even without adjusting for effects of insecticide sprays. The results indicate that Bt crops can affect insecticide use, which in turn can affect the relative abundance of non-target arthropods in Bt and non-Bt fields. Thus, environmental impact assessment should incorporate analysis of the effects of transgenic crops on management practices, as well as evaluation of the direct effects of such crops.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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