Biotechnology and the European corn borer: measuring historical farmer perceptions and adoption of transgenic Bt corn as a pest management strategy.

Clinton D. Pilcher, Marlin E. Rice, Randall A. Higgins, Kevin L. Steffey, Richard L. Hellmich, John Witkowski, Dennis Calvin, Kenneth R. Ostlie, Michael Gray

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51 Scopus citations


A 3-yr, multi-state survey of farmers who had planted transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn was conducted to evaluate perceptions of Bt corn performance and its utility as a management option for European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner). A questionnaire was sent to farmers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania who had grown Bt corn during the growing seasons of 1996, 1997, or 1998. There were 7,427 usable questionnaires returned with the following response percentages: 1996 (42.1%), 1997 (35.0%), and 1998 (22.6%). Adoption rates, based on percentage of acreage planted to Bt corn, increased dramatically from 1996 (10.5%) to 1998 (40.7%). The states growing the highest percentage of Bt corn were Minnesota, Iowa, and then Nebraska However, Illinois, was adopting Bt corn at the fastest rate. Historical use of insecticides did not influence the adoption of Bt corn. In addition, of those farmers who used insecticides to control European corn borer, the percentage that decreased their use of insecticides nearly doubled from 13.2% (1996) to 26.0% (1998) over this 3-yr period. The primary reason farmers planted Bt corn was to eliminate the yield loss caused by European corn borer. Scouting for European corn borers decreased from 91% (scouting 2.2 times a year) in 1996 to 75% (scouting 1.8 times a year) in 1998. The percentage of farmers not scouting for European corn borers increased from 9.6% (1996) to 25% (1998). Most farmers believed yields of Bt hybrids were either similar to or greater than the yields of non-Bt hybrids. Minnesota farmers perceived the greatest yield advantages. Farmers are becoming more aware of insect resistance management guidelines; however, they also clearly show preferences for having the flexibility to use different spatial plantings of Bt and non-Bt corn. Finally, after having planted Bt corn and obtained excellent control of European corn borer, most farmers believed that this insect had been causing more yield loss than they previously had suspected in their non-Bt corn. The data represented here provide an historical foundation for how transgenic Bt corn was used by farmers during the first 3 yr of commercial availability, their initial perceptions on the performance of this technology, and their attitudes regarding management of the European corn borer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-892
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of economic entomology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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