Blending Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn and non-. Bt corn seeds in the same bag is a convenient and easier compliance solution to satisfy refuge regulations. However, there has been considerable debate and concern about larval movement of the target insects in a seed blend because of its potential effect on the development of resistance. Reported here are studies to determine the larval movement of European corn borers, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner), in a seed blend compared to a structured refuge and their effects on survival, feeding injury and larval fitness. Also evaluated is the relative performance of a purple-seeded corn hybrid as a surrogate host plant for tracking gene flow. Seed blend and structured refuge arrangements of Agrisure GT/CB/LL Bt corn expressing Cry1Ab and isoline plants were evaluated at two locations in 2013 and 2014 by manually infesting refuge plants with first and second generation corn borer larvae. The majority of leaf and stalk injury was recorded on the refuge plant, which amounted to 66-83% of the total tunnel length. In both refuge arrangements, plant injury and the number of larvae recovered significantly decreased on neighboring plants with increasing distance away from the refuge plant in the same row. The relative decline in injury was much more pronounced in the seed blend, with neighbor Bt plants experiencing very minor tunneling or no injury at all due to the high dose trait. Eighty-nine percent fewer live larvae were also found on neighbor Bt plants in the seed blend compared to those found in the structured refuge plots. Larvae that moved to Bt plants as well as older instars that were manually placed on Bt plants failed to complete development. Comparison of the number of tunnels and larvae recovered per refuge plant indicated that the seed blend may not produce as many susceptible individuals as those produced in a structured refuge arrangement. Although the purple-seeded hybrid showed lower levels of ear and stalk injury, it could serve as an appropriate surrogate refuge plant to track gene flow.
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