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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research » Research » Research Project #439192

Research Project: Ecologically-based Management of Arthropods in the Maize Agroecosystem

Location: Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research

Project Number: 5030-22000-019-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 18, 2020
End Date: Oct 17, 2025

Objective 1: Improve knowledge of the genetics, genomics, ecology, and behavior of key maize insect pests as they affect abundance and pest resistance to insecticidal agents, including those expressed in transgenic maize. Sub-objective 1.A. Determine genomic architecture of phenotypic traits within and among reproductive and ecological variants of European corn borer. Sub-objective 1.B. Determine how insect movement and genetics impact potential for development of resistance to GE insecticidal toxins. Sub-objective 1.C. Develop genomic and computational resources for study of key maize pests. Objective 2: Identify and functionally dissect contributions of maize alleles that confer host plant resistance to lepidopteran pests. Sub-objective 2.A. Identify contributing alleles and specialized metabolites conferring resistance to silk-feeding by corn earworm. Sub-objective 2.B. Characterize resistance and develop doubled haploid inbred lines of maize with leaf activity against fall armyworm. Objective 3: Determine potential impacts of farming practices in maize agro-ecosystems on the ecology and management of both arthropod pests and non-pests such as monarch butterflies and bees. Sub-objective 3.A. Develop a risk-based decision support tool for managing sporadic insect pests of seedling maize. Sub-objective 3.B. Develop strategies for improving monarch butterfly and bee habitat in agricultural landscapes.

European corn borer, corn rootworm, and western bean cutworm are the most serious pests of maize in the Corn Belt, while corn earworm and fall armyworm are major pests in the southern half of the United States. Genetically-engineered (GE) maize is an important management tool for these insect pests, but they have evolved resistance to GE crops in many areas, seriously threatening their continued effectiveness. This project will take an integrated approach toward developing management strategies and tools to use against these insect pests with emphases on insect resistance management to GE maize, insect ecology, insect genetics and genomics, and native host plant resistance. We will address critical knowledge gaps including maize insect pest population genetic dynamics and genomic function, dispersal behavior, efficacy of insect resistance monitoring, and insect resistance management strategies, including ways to incorporate a diversity of pest suppression tactics. Native host plant resistance to control insect pests can serve the latter function, and provide a cost-efficient sustainable management tool for growers who choose not to use GE maize. This project will study native resistance in maize to insect pests, particularly corn earworm and fall armyworm, so that low-input control options can be developed. Given concerns on the indirect effects of farming practices on non-target arthropods, including bees and monarch butterflies, project scientists will work with stakeholders to develop strategies for increasing habitat for monarch butterflies to counter loss of milkweeds in maize and soybean fields. In addition, researchers will provide growers a decision support tool to allow realistic assessment of when the use of seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticide is justified in their particular fields to control sporadic seedling pests and when it is not, reducing overall insecticide input. Collectively, this research will result in maize pest management systems that are stable and reliable, cost effective for producers, and safe for growers, consumers and the environment.