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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGICALLY-BASED MANAGEMENT OF INSECT PESTS OF CORN, WITH EMPHASIS ON CORN BORERS, ROOTWORMS, AND CUTWORMS

Location: Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research

Title: Use and impact of Bt maize

Authors
item Hellmich, Richard
item Hellmich, Kristina -

Submitted to: Nature Education
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 14, 2011
Publication Date: May 11, 2012
Citation: Hellmich II, R.L., Hellmich, K.A. 2012. Use and impact of Bt maize. Nature Education. 3(5):4.

Interpretive Summary: Most people are familiar with the hungry caterpillar in the vegetable garden or the elusive beetle in the pantry and contending with these unwelcomed pests is a longstanding problem. Ever since humans started farming they have shared part of their harvest with insects. Growers of maize, Zea mays (corn), are challenged with a number of pests but the most important are lepidopteran larvae (i.e., caterpillars) that are stalk borers, ear feeders or leaf feeders and coleopteran larvae (i.e., beetle grubs) that feed on roots. The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis, for example, was nicknamed the "billion dollar bug" because it cost growers over a billion dollars annually in insecticides and lost crop yields. Most maize growers rely on traditional crop protection practices to manage these insects, including cultural, biological or chemical (insecticide) methods or a balance of these methods that aims to minimize environmental impact called integrated pest management (IPM). However, in 1996 USA growers were introduced to commercial maize that was genetically engineered (GE) with resistance to European corn borer and other lepidopteran maize pests. In 2001 another GE maize was introduced that killed corn rootworm larvae (a beetle grub), especially larvae of the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, another "billion dollar bug." These GE plants produce crystal (Cry) proteins or toxins derived from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), hence the common name "Bt maize." Bt maize has revolutionized pest control in a number of countries, but there still are questions about its use and impact. This article will focus on the opportunities and challenges presented by Bt maize as they relate to current insect-resistant products. This paper will be useful to anybody interested in agricultural biotechnology, especially people interested in the opportunities and challenges of Bt maize.

Technical Abstract: This is an invited article for a free science library and personal training tool sponsored by Nature Publishing Group, which will be included under the topics Agriculture and Biotechnology (http://www.nature.com/scitable). The focus of this article is on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize. Growers of maize, Zea mays (corn), are challenged with a number of pests, but the most important are lepidopteran larvae (i.e., caterpillars) that are stalk borers, ear feeders, or leaf feeders, and coleopteran larvae (i.e., beetle grubs) that feed on roots. The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis, for example, was nicknamed the "billion dollar bug" because it cost growers over a billion dollars annually in insecticides and lost crop yields. Most maize growers rely on traditional crop protection practices to manage these insects, including cultural, biological, or chemical (insecticide) methods or a balance of these methods that aims to minimize environmental impact called integrated pest management (IPM). However, in 1996, USA growers were introduced to commercial maize that was genetically engineered (GE) with resistance to European corn borer and other lepidopteran maize pests. Bt maize has revolutionized pest control in a number of countries, but there still are questions about its use and impact. This article will focus on the opportunities and challenges presented by Bt maize as they relate to current insect-resistant products. The article will be availble to students, educators, scientists, and growers worldwide.

Last Modified: 7/22/2014
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