Maize hybrids expressing the Cry1F toxin provide efficient control of lepidopteran pests. The Mediterranean corn borer, Sesamia nonagrioides (Lefèvre), is one of the most damaging pests of maize in the Mediterranean basin. In this work we firstly determined the efficacy of maize hybrids expressing the Cry1F toxin (event TC1507) to control neonates of S. nonagrioides. Leaf tissue feeding bioassays revealed that TC1507 maize is highly effective against this pest, and the percentage mortality obtained was comparable to that obtained with a Cry1Ab-expressing maize hybrid (Compa CB, event 176), which is known to be highly efficacious against S. nonagrioides. Secondly, interpopulation variation in the susceptibility to the Cry1F insecticidal protein was established for nine field-collected populations of S. nonagrioides (three Spanish, two French, two Italian, one Greek, and one Turkish). Estimates of the susceptibility of larvae to the Cry1F toxin showed low variability in lethal concentrations and growth inhibition concentrations among field populations. Moreover, no significant differences were found when they were grouped by geographical areas [Western Mediterranean (Spain and France) versus Eastern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece and Turkey)] or by history of exposure to Bt plants (Spanish vs. other populations). Therefore, the minor differences found in field populations can be attributed to natural variation in sensitivity to Cry1F. The importance of establishing baselines of susceptibility for resistance detection is discussed. Future changes in susceptibility of S. nonagrioides populations to Cry1F could be documented based on this baseline data.
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