“Sweetpotato weevils” Cylas puncticollis (Boheman) and Cylas brunneus F. (Coleoptera: Brentidae) are the most important biological threat to sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas L. (Lam), productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. Sweetpotato weevil control is difficult due to their cryptic feeding behavior. Expression of Cylas-active Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry proteins in sweetpotato could provide an effective control strategy. Unfortunately, Bt Cry proteins with relatively high toxicity against Cylas spp. have not been identified, partly because no published methodology for screening Bt Cry proteins against Cylas spp. in artificial diet exists. Therefore, the initial aim of this study was to develop an artificial diet for conducting bioassays with Cylas spp. and then to determine Bt Cry protein efficacy against C. puncticollis and C. brunneus by using this artificial diet. Five diets varying in their composition were evaluated. The highest survival rates for sweetpotato weevil larvae were observed for diet E that contained the highest amount of sweetpotato powder and supported weevil development from first instar to adulthood, similar to sweetpotato storage roots. Seven coleopteranactive Bt Cry proteins were incorporated into diet E and toxicity data were generated against neonate C. puncticollis and second-instar C. brunneus. All Bt Cry proteins tested had toxicity greater than the untreated control. Cry7Aa1, ET33/34, and Cry3Ca1 had LC50 values below 1 µg/g diet against both species. This study demonstrates the feasibility of using an artificial diet bioassay for screening Bt Cry proteins against sweetpotato weevil larvae and identifies candidate Bt Cry proteins for use in transforming sweetpotato varieties potentially conferring field resistance against these pests.
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Vol. 103 • No. 4