Transgenic corn expressing Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner (Bt corn) (Maximizer and Yieldgard hybrids, Novartis Seeds), non-Bt isolines and high-performance (check) hybrids were evaluated for European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner), damage and grain yield in commercial strip plots across Ontario in 1996 and 1997. Bt corn hybrids reduced stalk tunneling damage by 88–100%. In 1996, minimal damage was found in locations where only one generation of European corn borer occurred per year. Bt corn proved its greatest potential for reducing the number and length of cavities below the primary ear in locations where two generations of European corn borer were present. A yield response to using Bt hybrids only occurred when levels of tunneling damage exceeded 6 cm in length. European corn borer infestations resulted in a 6 and 2.4% reduction in yield for 1996 and 1997, respectively, when Bt hybrids were compared with their non-Bt isolines. A linear relationship was found between tunnel length per plant in centimeters (x) and yield protection (%) obtained from using Bt corn (y) (y = 1.02 0.005x, r2 = 0.7217). At a premium of $34.58 Canadian (CDN) per hectare for Bt corn seed, an infestation of at least 6 cm of corn borer tunneling per plant was required to break even at a market price for corn of $2.50 per bushel CDN. During the period of study, low infestations (0–2 cm) of European corn borer occurred at 25% of the locations assessed, moderate infestations (4–6 cm) occurred at 42% of the locations, and high infestations (>6 cm) occurred at 33% of the locations. At a corn price of $3.00 per bushel CDN and seed premiums of $34.58 per hectare CDN, 5 cm of tunneling was required for a return on investment in Bt seed, comprising only 55% of the growers in the study. With infestations of more than 6 cm of tunneling occurring only 33% of the time, a return on seed investment would be realized in only one of three growing seasons. At a seed premium of $24.70 per hectare CDN per year, at least $74 per hectare CDN in the year of infestation would be required to make up for the two years of no return. In this study, a $74 per hectare CDN return at a corn price of $9.26 per hectare CDN with >16 cm of tunneling damage would have occurred only 7.3% of the time.
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