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Diminishing returns from increased percent Bt cotton: the case of pink bollworm.


ABSTRACT: Regional suppression of pests by transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has been reported in several cropping systems, but little is known about the functional relationship between the ultimate pest population density and the pervasiveness of Bt crops. Here we address this issue by analyzing 16 years of field data on pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) population density and percentage of Bt cotton in the Yangtze River Valley of China. In this region, the percentage of cotton hectares planted with Bt cotton increased from 9% in 2000 to 94% in 2009 and 2010. We find that as the percent Bt cotton increased over the years, the cross-year growth rate of pink bollworm from the last generation of one year to the first generation of the next year decreased. However, as the percent Bt cotton increased, the within-year growth rate of pink bollworm from the first to last generation of the same year increased, with a slope approximately opposite to that of the cross-year rates. As a result, we did not find a statistically significant decline in the annual growth rate of pink bollworm as the percent Bt cotton increased over time. Consistent with the data, our modeling analyses predict that the regional average density of pink bollworm declines as the percent Bt cotton increases, but the higher the percent Bt cotton, the slower the decline in pest density. Specifically, we find that 95% Bt cotton is predicted to cause only 3% more reduction in larval density than 80% Bt cotton. The results here suggest that density dependence can act against the decline in pest density and diminish the net effects of Bt cotton on suppression of pink bollworm in the study region. The findings call for more studies of the interactions between pest density-dependence and Bt crops.

SUBMITTER: Huang Y 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3713026 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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