Demographic performance of helicoverpa zea populations on dual and triple-gene Bt cotton

Marcelo M. Rabelo, Silvana V. Paula-Moraes, Eliseu Jose G. Pereira, Blair D. Siegfried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Insecticidal toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are valuable tools for pest management worldwide, contributing to the management of human disease insect vectors and phytophagous insect pests of agriculture and forestry. Here, we report the effects of dual and triple Bt toxins expressed in transgenic cotton cultivars on the fitness and demographic performance of Helicoverpa zea (Boddie)—a noctuid pest, known as cotton bollworm and corn earworm. Life-history traits were determined for individuals of three field populations from a region where H. zea overwintering is likely. Triple-gene Bt cotton cultivars that express Cry and Vip3Aa toxins killed 100% of the larvae in all populations tested. In contrast, dual-gene Bt cotton that express Cry1Ac+Cry1F and Cry1Ac+Cry2Ab allowed population growth with the intrinsic rate of population growth (rm) 38% lower than on non-Bt cotton. The insects feeding on Bt cotton plants that express Cry1Ac+Cry2Ab, Cry1Ac+Cry1F, or Cry1Ab+Cry2Ae exhibited reduced larval weight, survival rate, and increased development time. Additionally, fitness parameters varied significantly among the insect populations, even on non-Bt cotton plants, likely because of their different genetic background and/or previous Bt toxin exposure. This is the first report of the comparative fitness of H. zea field populations on dual-gene Bt cotton after the recent reports of field resistance to certain Bt toxins. These results document the population growth rates of H. zea from an agricultural landscape with 100% Bt cotton cultivars. Our results will contribute to the development and validation of resistance management recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number551
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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