The response of lepidopteran pests to commercialised Bt maize in South Africa
Venter, Jakobus Gideon
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Bt maize expressing Cry1Ab was approved for release in South Africa for control of Busseola fusca (Fuller) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and Chilo partellus (Swinhoe) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) in 1998. During 2012, a stacked Bt maize event, expressing Cry2Ab2 + Cry1A.105, was also approved for control of these above mentioned pests. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of two Bt maize events expressing Cry1Ab (MON810 and Bt11) and a Bt maize event expressing Cry2Ab2 + Cry1A.105 (MON89034) on selected lepidopteran non-target pest species and certain lepidopteran stem borer species in South Africa. Results from previous studies and this study will provide information regarding efficacy of Bt maize against pests which have not been evaluated yet. Insects with significance in maize agro-ecosystems in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa, were prioritised and laboratory bioassays were conducted to evaluate the effect of Bt maize against these selected target and non-target pest species. Studies were conducted on three stem borers C. partellus, Eldana saccharina and Sesamia calamistis and three nontarget lepidopteran pest species Agrotis segetum, Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera exempta. Results showed that MON810 maize was not effective against A. segetum larvae feeding on maize seedlings. Differential levels of survival were observed between two A. segetum populations on MON89034 with a population from Polokwane showing survival on the stacked maize event. No S. exempta 1st instar larvae survived on MON810 and MON89034 but 3rd instar larvae survived on MON810 maize. Helicoverpa armigera larvae survived on ears of MON810 maize plants but not on events MON89034 or Bt 11. Results further indicated that C. partellus larvae were highly susceptible to these three Bt maize events. Larval survival of S. calamistis was recorded for larvae feeding on MON810 and Bt11 maize ears but not on MON89034 maize ears. Bt maize during the vegetative growth stages therefore effectively controlled C. partellus, S. calamistis and E. saccharina but the latter two species was not effectively controlled when feeding on ear tissue. This study provides important information on the effects of Bt maize on the most important non-target pest species of maize in sub-Saharan Africa.