Corn rootworm (Diabrotica spp.) has become the most concern and widespread insect pest of corn (Zea mays L.) production in North America. Two field experiments were conducted to assess the agronomic and yield performance of transgenic rootworm trait, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry3Bb, seed-coating treatment, and a soil-applied insecticide under natural corn rootworm infestation. Experiment 1 compared a conventional corn hybrid with and without insecticide (Force 3G) with its near isoline Bt hybrid from 2003 to 2005, on a clay loam soil. Experiment 2 investigated the same treatments as in Experiment 1 plus an additional seed-coated Poncho treatment on a sandy loam in 2004 and 2005. Rootworm population before the crop anthesis, root node injury and root:shoot dry weight ratio during the early grain filling stage, and stalk lodging and grain yield were determined. Our data showed that rootworm population diminished over the 3 years owing to rootworm displacement and adverse weather conditions. At the clay loam site, both Force 3G and the Bt hybrid significantly reduced the larval populations, root injury and lodging score, and increased root:shoot ratio. Over the 3 years, grain yields of the Bt hybrid were 11-66% greater than the untreated non-Bt isoline hybrid; yield of the non-Bt hybrid treated with Force 3G was also significantly greater than the same untreated non-Bt hybrid in 2 of 3 years. Despite less root node injury in the first rows of non-Bt plants adjacent to the Bt plots was observed, yield benefit of this effect remained to be proven. On sandy loam soil, the larval population was very low and there were no differences in root node injury and plant lodging among all the four treatments in either 2004 or 2005. The yield of the Bt hybrid was up to 10% greater than its non-Bt isoline hybrid treated or not with an insecticide in 1 year. Our data showed that Bt rootworm seed technology was effective to control the rootworm larvae and protected grain yield under severe infestation. Furthermore, our data suggest that some of the gain in Bt hybrid yield may be attributed to the genetic transformation as observed in sandy loam soil experiment. In all cases, corn producers should be aware of the pest history, rootworm pressure in relation to economic threshold, soil type and the expected cost-to-benefit ratio before deciding to adopt any protective measures. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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