Sweet Corn Sentinel Monitoring for Lepidopteran Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Toxins

G. P. Dively, T. P. Kuhar, S. Taylor, H. B. Doughty, K. Holmstrom, D. Gilrein, B. A. Nault, J. Ingerson-Mahar, J. Whalen, D. Reisig, Daniel L. Frank, S. J. Fleischer, David Owens, C. Welty, F. P.F. Reay-Jones, P. Porter, J. L. Smith, J. Saguez, S. Murray, A. WallingfordH. Byker, B. Jensen, E. Burkness, W. D. Hutchison, K. A. Hamby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


As part of an insect resistance management plan to preserve Bt transgenic technology, annual monitoring of target pests is mandated to detect susceptibility changes to Bt toxins. Currently Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) monitoring involves investigating unexpected injury in Bt crop fields and collecting larvae from non-Bt host plants for laboratory diet bioassays to determine mortality responses to diagnostic concentrations of Bt toxins. To date, this monitoring approach has not detected any significant change from the known range of baseline susceptibility to Bt toxins, yet practical field-evolved resistance in H. zea populations and numerous occurrences of unexpected injury occur in Bt crops. In this study, we implemented a network of 73 sentinel sweet corn trials, spanning 16 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces, for monitoring changes in H. zea susceptibility to Cry and Vip3A toxins by measuring differences in ear damage and larval infestations between isogenic pairs of non-Bt and Bt hybrids over three years. This approach can monitor susceptibility changes and regional differences in other ear-feeding lepidopteran pests. Temporal changes in the field efficacy of each toxin were evidenced by comparing our current results with earlier published studies, including baseline data for each Bt trait when first commercialized. Changes in amount of ear damage showed significant increases in H. zea resistance to Cry toxins and possibly lower susceptibility to Vip3a. Our findings demonstrate that the sentinel plot approach as an in-field screen can effectively monitor phenotypic resistance and document field-evolved resistance in target pest populations, improving resistance monitoring for Bt crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of economic entomology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 4 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


  • Bt toxin
  • insect resistance monitoring
  • sentinel sweet corn


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