Hybridizing transgenic Bt cotton with non-Bt cotton counters resistance in pink bollworm [Agricultural Sciences]
Extensive cultivation of crops genetically engineered to produce insecticidal proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has suppressed some major pests, reduced insecticide sprays, enhanced pest control by natural enemies, and increased grower profits. However, these benefits are being eroded by evolution of resistance in pests. We report a strategy for combating resistance by crossing transgenic Bt plants with conventional non-Bt plants and then crossing the resulting first-generation (F1) hybrid progeny and sowing the second-generation (F2) seeds. This strategy yields a random mixture within fields of three-quarters of plants that produce Bt toxin and one-quarter that does not. We hypothesized that the non-Bt plants in this mixture promote survival of susceptible insects, thereby delaying evolution of resistance. To test this hypothesis, we compared predictions from computer modeling with data monitoring pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) resistance to Bt toxin Cry1Ac produced by transgenic cotton in an 11-y study at 17 field sites in six provinces of China. The frequency of resistant individuals in the field increased before this strategy was widely deployed and then declined after its widespread adoption boosted the percentage of non-Bt cotton plants in the region. The correspondence between the predicted and observed outcomes implies that this strategy countered evolution of resistance. Despite the increased percentage of non-Bt cotton, suppression of pink bollworm was sustained. Unlike other resistance management tactics that require regulatory intervention, growers adopted this strategy voluntarily, apparently because of advantages that may include better performance as well as lower costs for seeds and insecticides.
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