Although rice (Oryza sativa L.) lines that express Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins have shown great potential for managing the major Lepidoptera pests of rice in southern China, including Sesamia inferens, their long-term use is dependent on managing resistance development to Bt toxins in pest populations. The maintenance of “natural” refuges, non-Bt expressing plants that are hosts for a target pest, has been proposed as a means to minimize the evolution of resistance to Bt toxins in transgenic plants. In the current study, field surveys and greenhouse experiments were conducted to identify host plants of S. inferens that could serve as “natural” refuges in rice growing areas of southern China. A field survey showed that 34 plant species in four families can be alternative host plants of S. inferens. Based on injury level under field conditions, rice (Oryza sativa L.); water oat (Zizania latifolia Griseb.); corn (Zea mays L.); tidalmarsh flatsedge (Cyperus serotinus Rottb.); and narrowleaved cat-tail (Typha angustifolia Linn.) were identified as the primary host plant species of S. inferens. Greenhouse experiments further demonstrated that water oat, corn, and narrow-leaved cat-tail could support the survival and development of S. inferens. Interestingly, greenhouse experiments showed that S. inferens preferred to lay eggs on tidalmarsh flatsedge compared with the other three nonrice host species, although no pupae were found in the plants examined in field surveys. Few larvae were found to survive on tidalmarsh flatsedge in greenhouse bioassays, suggesting that tidalmarsh flatsedge could serve as a “dead-end” trap crop for S. inferens, but is not a candidate to serve as natural refuge to maintain susceptible S. inferens. Overall, these results suggest that water-oat, corn, and narrowleaved cat-tail might serve as “natural refuge” for S. inferens in rice planting area of southern China when Bt rice varieties are planted.
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