Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae); corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea Boddie (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae); southwestern corn borer, Diatraea grandiosella Dyar (Lepidoptera: Crambidae); sugarcane borer, Diatraea saccharalis F. (Lepidoptera: Crambidae); and lesser cornstalk borer, Elasmopalpus lignosellus Zeller (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), are lepidopteran pests of corn, Zea mays L., in the southern United States. Blended refuge for transgenic plants expressing the insecticidal protein derivative from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has recently been approved as an alternative resistance management strategy in the northern United States. We conducted a two-year study with 39 experiments across 12 states in the southern United States to evaluate plant injury from these five species of Lepidoptera to corn expressing Cry1F and Cry1Ab, as both single and pyramided traits, a pyramid of Cry1Ab×Vip3Aa20, and a pyramid of Cry1F×Cry1Ab plus non-Bt in a blended refuge. Leaf injury and kernel damage from corn earworm and fall armyworm, and stalking tunneling by southwestern corn borer, were similar in Cry1Fx×Cry1Ab plants compared with the Cry1F×Cry1Ab plus non-Bt blended refuge averaged across five-plant clusters. When measured on an individual plant basis, leaf injury, kernel damage, stalk tunneling (southwestern corn borer), and dead or injured plants (lesser cornstalk borer) were greater in the blended non-Bt refuge plants compared to Cry1F×Cry1Ab plants in the non-Bt and pyramided Cry1F×Cry1Ab blended refuge treatment. When non-Bt blended refuge plants were compared to a structured refuge of non-Bt plants, no significant difference was detected in leaf injury, kernel damage, or stalk tunneling (southwestern corn borer). Plant stands in the non-Bt and pyramided Cry1F×Cry1Ab blended refuge treatment had more stalk tunneling from sugarcane borer and plant death from lesser cornstalk borer compared to a pyramided Cry1F×Cry1Ab structured refuge treatment. Hybrid plants containing Cry1F×Cry1Ab within the pyramided Cry1F×Cry1Ab blended refuge treatment had significantly less kernel damage than non-Bt structured refuge treatments. Both single and pyramided Bt traits were effective against southwestern corn borer, sugarcane borer, and lesser cornstalk borer.
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