Helicoverpa armigera is an important lepidopteran pest of cotton in China. From 2002, the frequency of Bt resistance alleles and quantitative shifts in larval Cry1Ac tolerance of field H. armigera population were monitored using bioassays of F1 and F2 offspring of isofemale lines from Xiajin County of Shandong Province (an intensive Bt cotton planting area) and Anci County of Hebei Province (a multiple-crop system including corn, soybean, peanut, and Bt cotton) in northern China. During 2006–2008, a total of 2,306 isofemale lines from the Xiajin population and a total of 1,270 isofemale lines from the Anci population were successfully screened on Cry1Ac diets. For each year, it was estimated that the major resistance gene frequency in Xiajin population in 2006, 2007, and 2008 was 0, 0.00022, and 0.00033, respectively. No major alleles conferring resistance to Cry1Ac were found in the Anci population; the frequency of resistance alleles for Cry1Ac was 0. Based on the relative average development rates (RADRs) of H. armigera larvae in F1 tests, no substantial increase in Cry1Ac tolerance was found in either location over the 3-yr period. There were also significantly positive correlations between RADR of lines in the F1 generation and the RADR of their F2 offspring, indicating genetic variation in response to toxin. The low frequency of resistance alleles found in this study and in our previous results from 2002 to 2005 suggest the frequency of resistance alleles has remained low and that natural refugia resistance management strategy maybe effective for delaying resistance evolution in H. armigera to Bt cotton in northern China.
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