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.
The cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV) transmitted by Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) has caused significant reductions in fall melon (Cucumis melo L.) yields in Yuma County, Arizona. In a recent landscape-based study, we found evidence that cotton and spring melon fields increased abundance of B. tabaci and spread of CYSDV infection in fall melon fields. Here, we show that a statistical model derived from data collected in 2011-2012 and based on areas of cotton and spring melon fields located within 1,500 m from edges of fall melon fields was sufficient to retrospectively predict incidence of CYSDV infection in fall melon fields during 2007-2010. Nevertheless, the slope of the association between areas of spring melon fields and incidence of CYSDV infection was three times smaller in 2007-2010 than in 2011-2012, whereas the slope of the association between areas of cotton fields and incidence of CYSDV infection was consistent between study periods. Accordingly, predictions were more accurate when data on areas of cotton alone were used as a basis for prediction than when data on areas of cotton and spring melons were used. Validation of this statistical model confirms that crop isolation has potential for reducing incidence of CYSDV infection in fall melon fields in Yuma County, although isolation from cotton may provide more consistent benefits than isolation from spring melon.
Evolution of Helicoverpa armigera resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton producing Cry1Ac is progressing in northern China, and replacement of Cry1Ac cotton by pyramided Bt cotton has been considered to counter such resistance. Here, we investigated four of the eight conditions underlying success of the refuge strategy for delaying resistance to Cry1Ac+Cry2Ab cotton, a pyramid that has been used extensively against H. armigera outside China. Laboratory bioassays of a Cry2Ab-selected strain (An2Ab) and a related unselected strain (An) reveal that resistance to Cry2Ab (130-fold) was nearly dominant, autosomally inherited, and controlled by more than one locus. Strong cross-resistance occurred between Cry2Ab and Cry2Aa (81-fold). Weaker cross-resistance (18- to 22-fold) between Cry2Ab and Cry1A toxins was also present and significantly increased survival of An2Ab relative to An on cotton cultivars producing the fusion protein Cry1Ac/Cry1Ab or Cry1Ac. Survival on Cry1Ac+Cry2Ab cotton was also significantly higher in An2Ab than in An, showing that redundant killing on this pyramid was incomplete. Survival on non-Bt cotton did not differ significantly between An2Ab and An, indicating an absence of fitness costs affecting this trait. These results indicate that a switch to three-toxin pyramided cotton could be valuable for increasing durability of Bt cotton in China.