Regional pest suppression associated with widespread Bt maize adoption benefits vegetable growers

Galen P. Dively, P. Dilip Venugopal, Dick Bean, Joanne Whalen, Kristian Holmstrom, Thomas P. Kuhar, Hélène B. Doughty, Terry Patton, William Cissel, William D. Hutchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

Transgenic crops containing the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes reduce pests and insecticide usage, promote biocontrol services, and economically benefit growers. Area-wide Bt adoption suppresses pests regionally, with declines expanding beyond the planted Bt crops into other non-Bt crop fields. However, the offsite benefits to growers of other crops from such regional suppression remain uncertain. With data spanning 1976–2016, we demonstrate that vegetable growers benefit via decreased crop damage and insecticide applications in relation to pest suppression in the Mid-Atlantic United States. We provide evidence for the regional suppression of Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner), European corn borer, and Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), corn earworm, populations in association with widespread Bt maize adoption (1996–2016) and decreased economic levels for injury in vegetable crops [peppers (Capsicum annuum L.), green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), and sweet corn (Zea mays L., convar. saccharata)] compared with the pre-Bt period (1976–1995). Moth populations of both species significantly declined in association with widespread Bt maize (field corn) adoption, even as increased temperatures buffered the population reduction. We show marked decreases in the number of recommended insecticidal applications, insecticides applied, and O. nubilalis damage in vegetable crops in association with widespread Bt maize adoption. These offsite benefits to vegetable growers in the agricultural landscape have not been previously documented, and the positive impacts identified here expand on the reported ecological effects of Bt adoption. Our results also underscore the need to account for offsite economic benefits of pest suppression, in addition to the direct economic benefits of Bt crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3320-3325
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume115
Issue number13
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 27 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Mike Embry and Amy Miller, the numerous research assistants and summer research interns, graduate students, and trap operators for their help in data collection over the past 40 y. We thank the research farm managers, David Armentrout, Mike Newell, Alfred Hawkins, Kevin Conover, and Dave Justice for establishing and maintaining sentinel plots of sweet corn and peppers. We also thank Joseph Ingerson-Mahar and Gerald Ghidiu for providing trap and pepper damage data from New Jersey. This project was funded by US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant MD-ENTO-0807, with partial support from the Maryland Integrated Pest Management Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station. The fun-ders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank Mike Embry and Amy Miller, the numerous research assistants and summer research interns, graduate students, and trap operators for their help in data collection over the past 40 y. We thank the research farm managers, David Armentrout, Mike Newell, Alfred Hawkins, Kevin Conover, and Dave Justice for establishing and maintaining sentinel plots of sweet corn and peppers. We also thank Joseph Ingerson-Mahar and Gerald Ghidiu for providing trap and pepper damage data from New Jersey. This project was funded by US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant MD-ENTO-0807, with partial support from the Maryland Integrated Pest Management Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.

Keywords

  • Agricultural biotechnology
  • Ecological effects
  • Offsite benefits
  • Pest management
  • Regional pest suppression

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