A challenge for the seed mixture refuge strategy in Bt maize: impact of cross-pollination on an ear-feeding pest, corn earworm.
ABSTRACT: To counter the threat of insect resistance, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize growers in the U.S. are required to plant structured non-Bt maize refuges. Concerns with refuge compliance led to the introduction of seed mixtures, also called RIB (refuge-in-the-bag), as an alternative approach for implementing refuge for Bt maize products in the U.S. Maize Belt. A major concern in RIB is cross-pollination of maize hybrids that can cause Bt proteins to be present in refuge maize kernels and negatively affect refuge insects. Here we show that a mixed planting of 5% nonBt and 95% Bt maize containing the SmartStax traits expressing Cry1A.105, Cry2Ab2 and Cry1F did not provide an effective refuge for an important above-ground ear-feeding pest, the corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie). Cross-pollination in RIB caused a majority (>90%) of refuge kernels to express ? one Bt protein. The contamination of Bt proteins in the refuge ears reduced neonate-to-adult survivorship of H. zea to only 4.6%, a reduction of 88.1% relative to larvae feeding on ears of pure non-Bt maize plantings. In addition, the limited survivors on refuge ears had lower pupal mass and took longer to develop to adults.
Project description:Transgenic corn engineered with genes expressing insecticidal toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Berliner) (Bt) are now a major tool in insect pest management. With its widespread use, insect resistance is a major threat to the sustainability of the Bt transgenic technology. For all Bt corn expressing Cry toxins, the high dose requirement for resistance management is not achieved for corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), which is more tolerant to the Bt toxins.We present field monitoring data using Cry1Ab (1996-2016) and Cry1A.105+Cry2Ab2 (2010-2016) expressing sweet corn hybrids as in-field screens to measure changes in field efficacy and Cry toxin susceptibility to H. zea. Larvae successfully damaged an increasing proportion of ears, consumed more kernel area, and reached later developmental stages (4th - 6th instars) in both types of Bt hybrids (Cry1Ab-event Bt11, and Cry1A.105+Cry2Ab2-event MON89034) since their commercial introduction. Yearly patterns of H. zea population abundance were unrelated to reductions in control efficacy. There was no evidence of field efficacy or tissue toxicity differences among different Cry1Ab hybrids that could contribute to the decline in control efficacy. Supportive data from laboratory bioassays demonstrate significant differences in weight gain and fitness characteristics between the Maryland H. zea strain and a susceptible strain. In bioassays with Cry1Ab expressing green leaf tissue, Maryland H. zea strain gained more weight than the susceptible strain at all concentrations tested. Fitness of the Maryland H. zea strain was significantly lower than that of the susceptible strain as indicated by lower hatch rate, longer time to adult eclosion, lower pupal weight, and reduced survival to adulthood.After ruling out possible contributing factors, the rapid change in field efficacy in recent years and decreased susceptibility of H. zea to Bt sweet corn provide strong evidence of field-evolved resistance in H. zea populations to multiple Cry toxins. The high adoption rate of Bt field corn and cotton, along with the moderate dose expression of Cry1Ab and related Cry toxins in these crops, and decreasing refuge compliance probably contributed to the evolution of resistance. Our results have important implications for resistance monitoring, refuge requirements and other regulatory policies, cross-resistance issues, and the sustainability of the pyramided Bt technology.
Project description:Increased temperature anomaly during the twenty-first century coincides with the proliferation of transgenic crops containing the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Berliner) (Bt) to express insecticidal Cry proteins. Increasing temperatures profoundly affect insect life histories and agricultural pest management. However, the implications of climate change on Bt crop-pest interactions and insect resistance to Bt crops remains unexamined. We analysed the relationship of temperature anomaly and Bt adoption with field-evolved resistance to Cry1Ab Bt sweet corn in a major pest, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie). Increased Bt adoption during 1996-2016 suppressed H. zea populations, but increased temperature anomaly buffers population reduction. Temperature anomaly and its interaction with elevated selection pressure from high Bt acreage probably accelerated the Bt-resistance development. Helicoverpa zea damage to corn ears, kernel area consumed, mean instars and proportion of late instars in Bt varieties increased with Bt adoption and temperature anomaly, through additive or interactive effects. Risk of Bt-resistant H. zea spreading is high given extensive Bt adoption, and the expected increase in overwintering and migration. Our study highlights the challenges posed by climate change for Bt biotechnology-based agricultural pest management, and the need to incorporate evolutionary processes affected by climate change into Bt-resistance management programmes.
Project description:Preharvest mycotoxin contamination of field-grown crops is influenced not only by the host genotype, but also by inoculum load, insect pressure and their confounding interactions with seasonal weather. In two different field trials, we observed a preference in the natural infestation of corn earworm (CEW; Helicoverpa zea Boddie) to specific maize (Zea mays L.) genotypes and investigated this observation. The field trials involved four maize lines with contrasting levels of resistance to Aspergillus flavus. The resistant lines had 7 to 14-fold greater infested ears than the susceptible lines. Seed aflatoxin B1 (AF) levels, in mock- and A. flavus-inoculated ears were consistent with genotype resistance to A. flavus, in that the resistant lines showed low levels of AF (<30 ppb), whereas the susceptible lines had up to 500 ppb. On the other hand, CEW infestation showed a positive correlation with seed fumonisins (FUM) contamination by native Fusarium verticillioides strains. We inferred that the inverse trend in the correlation of AF and FUM with H. zea infestation may be due to a differential sensitivity of CEW to the two mycotoxins. This hypothesis was tested by toxin-feeding studies. H. zea larvae showed decreasing mass with increasing AF in the diet and incurred >30% lethality at 250 ppb. In contrast, CEW was tolerant to fumonisin with no significant loss in larval mass even at 100 ppm, implicating the low seed aflatoxin content as a predominant factor for the prevalence of CEW infestation and the associated fumonisin contamination in A. flavus resistant maize lines. Further, delayed flowering of the two resistant maize lines might have contributed to the pervasive H. zea damage of these lines by providing young silk for egg-laying. These results highlight the need for integrated strategies targeting mycotoxigenic fungi as well as their insect vectors for enhanced food safety.
Project description:Selective seed abortion is a survival strategy adopted by many species that sacrifices some seeds to allow the remaining ones to set. While in evolutionary terms this is a successful approach, it causes huge losses to crop yields. A pollination time gap (PTG) has been suggested to be associated with position-related grain abortion. To test this hypothesis, we developed a novel approach to alter the natural pattern of maize (Zea mays L.) pollination and to examine the impact of PTGs on kernel growth and the underlying physiological basis. When apical and basal kernels were synchronously pollinated, the basal kernels set and matured but the apical kernels were aborted at an early stage. Delaying pollination to the basal ovaries suppressed their development and reduced invertase activity and sugar levels, which allowed the apical kernels to set and grow normally. In situ localization revealed normal cell wall invertase activity in apical and basal kernels under synchronous pollination but reduced activity in the delayed-pollinated kernels independent of their position. Starch, which was abundant in basal kernel areas, was absent in the apical kernel regions under synchronous pollination but apparent with delayed pollination. Our analyses identified PTG-related sink strength and a low level of local assimilates as the main causes of grain abortion.
Project description:The corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), is a major pest of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize and cotton in the U.S.. Reduced efficacy of Bt plants expressing Cry1 and Cry2 against H. zea has been reported in some areas of the U.S.. In this study, we evaluated the occurrence and ear damage of H. zea on transgenic Bt maize expressing Cry proteins or a combination of Vip3A and Cry proteins in the field in Texas in 2018. We found that the occurrence of H. zea larvae and the viable kernel damage area on the ear were not different between non-Bt maize and Bt maize expressing Cry1A.105+Cry2Ab2 and Cry1Ab+Cry1F proteins. A total of 67.5% of the pyramided Bt maize expressing Cry1Ab+Cry1F+Vip3A was damaged by 2nd?4th instar larvae of H. zea. Diet bioassays showed that the resistance ratio against Vip3Aa51 for H. zea obtained from Cry1Ab+Cry1F+Vip3A maize was 20.4 compared to a field population collected from Cry1F+Cry1A.105+Cry2Ab2 maize. Leaf tissue bioassays showed that 7-day survivorship on WideStrike3 (Cry1F+Cry1Ac+Vip3A) cotton leaves was significantly higher for the H. zea population collected from Cry1Ab+Cry1F+Vip3A maize than for a Bt-susceptible laboratory population. The results generated from this study suggest that H. zea has evolved practical resistance to Cry1 and Cry2 proteins. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure the sustainable use of the Vip3A technology in Bt maize and cotton.
Project description:The evolution of maize (Zea mays L.) is highly controversial given the discrepancies related to the phenotypic and genetic changes suffered by the species, the incidence of human groups and the times in which these changes occurred. Also, morphological and genetic traits of crops are difficult to evaluate in the absence of fossils macro-botanical remains. In contrast in the Tarapacá region (18-21° S), Atacama Desert of Chile, prehispanic settlements (ca. 2500-400 yr BP) displayed extensive maize agriculture. The presence of archaeological macro-botanical remains of maize provided a unique opportunity to study the evolution of this crop, covering a temporal sequence of at least 2000 years. Thus, in this study, we ask how the morphological and genetic diversity of maize has varied since its introduction during prehispanic times in the Tarapacá region. To answer this, we measured and compared morphological traits of size and shape between archaeological cobs and kernels and 95 ears from landraces. To established genetic diversity eight microsatellite markers (SSR) were analyzed in archaeological and modern kernels. Genetic diversity was estimated by allelic frequency rates, the average number of alleles per locus, observed heterozygosity (Ho) and expected heterozygosity (He). Differences between populations and genetic structure were estimated by fixation index FST and STRUCTURE analysis. Our results indicate significant phenotypic differences and genetic distance between archaeological maize and landraces. This result is suggestive of an introduction of new varieties or drastic selective changes in modern times in Tarapacá. Additionally, archaeological maize shows a low genetic diversity and a progressive increase in the size of ears and kernels. These results suggest a human selection during prehispanic times and establish that prehispanic farmers played an important role in maize development. They also provide new clues for understanding the evolutionary history of maize in hyperarid conditions.
Project description:Genomic scans for genes that show the signature of past selection have been widely applied to a number of species and have identified a large number of selection candidate genes. In cultivated maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) selection scans have identified several hundred candidate domestication genes by comparing nucleotide diversity and differentiation between maize and its progenitor, teosinte (Z. mays ssp. parviglumis). One of these is a gene called zea agamous-like1 (zagl1), a MADS-box transcription factor, that is known for its function in the control of flowering time. To determine the trait(s) controlled by zagl1 that was (were) the target(s) of selection during maize domestication, we created a set of recombinant chromosome isogenic lines that differ for the maize versus teosinte alleles of zagl1 and which carry cross-overs between zagl1 and its neighbor genes. These lines were grown in a randomized trial and scored for flowering time and domestication related traits. The results indicated that the maize versus teosinte alleles of zagl1 affect flowering time as expected, as well as multiple traits related to ear size with the maize allele conferring larger ears with more kernels. Our results suggest that zagl1 may have been under selection during domestication to increase the size of the maize ear.
Project description:In the agroecosystem, genetically engineered plants producing insecticidal Cry proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) interact with non-target herbivores and other elements of the food web. Stacked Bt crops expose herbivores to multiple Cry proteins simultaneously. In this study, the direct interactions between SmartStax® Bt maize producing six different Cry proteins and two herbivores with different feeding modes were investigated. Feeding on leaves of Bt maize had no effects on development time, fecundity, or longevity of the aphid Rhopalosiphum padi (Hemiptera: Aphididae), and no effects on the egg hatching time, development time, sex ratio, fecundity, and survival of the spider mite Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Tetranychidae). The results thus confirm the lack of effects on those species reported previously for some of the individual Cry proteins. In the Bt maize leaves, herbivore infestation did not result in a consistent change of Cry protein concentrations. However, occasional statistical differences between infested and non-infested leaves were observed for some Cry proteins and experimental repetitions. Overall, the study provides evidence that the Cry proteins in stacked Bt maize do not interact with two common non-target herbivores.
Project description:The expression systems of the mitochondrial genes are derived from their bacterial ancestors, but have evolved many new features in their eukaryotic hosts. Mitochondrial RNA splicing is a complex process regulated by families of nucleus-encoded RNA-binding proteins, few of which have been characterized in maize (Zea mays L.). Here, we identified the Zea mays small kernel 3 (Zmsmk3) candidate gene, which encodes a mitochondrial transcription termination factor (mTERF) containing two mTERF motifs, which is conserved in monocotyledon; and the target introns were also quite conserved during evolution between monocotyledons and dicotyledons. The mutations of Zmsmk3 led to arrested embryo and endosperm development, resulting in small kernels. A transcriptome of 12 days after pollination endosperm analysis revealed that the starch biosynthetic pathway and the zein gene family were down-regulated in the Zmsmk3 mutant kernels. ZmSMK3 is localized in mitochondria. The reduced expression of ZmSmk3 in the mutant resulted in the splicing deficiency of mitochondrial nad4 intron1 and nad1 intron4, causing a reduction in complex I assembly and activity, impairing mitochondria structure and activating the alternative respiratory pathway. So, the results suggest that ZmSMK3 is required for the splicing of nad4 intron 1 and nad1 intron 4, complex I assembly and kernel development in maize.
Project description:Although yield output of maize (Zea mays L.) has improved markedly over the last century, procedures for improving the grain-filling process remain elusive. Our aim in this study was to relate grain-filling variation in maize (including kernels in apical and middle positions in the ears) to plant density and nitrogen (N) application rate using a crossed experimental design. We also investigated changes in zeatin riboside (ZR), indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), abscisic acid (ABA), and gibberellic acid (GA) in the kernels during the grain-filling period. Two high-yield maize varieties cultivated extensively in China were field grown under normal (67,500 pl ha-1) and high (97,500 pl ha-1) densities, and supplied with low, normal and high (0, 180, and 360 kg N ha-1) concentrations of N. Kernel weight (KW), the maximum grain-filling rate (Gmax), the average grain-filling rate (Gave), and the kernel weight increment achieving Gmax (Wmax) were all significantly depressed under high density (HD) conditions, but increased N supply partially offset the losses. The apical kernels were more sensitive to density and N application rate than middle kernels. Correlation analysis indicated that plant density and N rate affected KW mainly by influencing the grain-filling rate. Variation in ZR, IAA, and ABA content tracked the variation in KW, but variation in GA content did not. Furthermore, the grain-filling parameters (closely related to TKW) had strong canonical correlation with the content of all hormones across the filling period and ZR content had the strongest relationship. Based on our study, high N supply is beneficial to optimize grain-filling parameters and improve KW of maize kernels under crowded condition.