Impact of Corn Earworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) on Field Corn (Poales: Poaceae) Yield and Grain Quality
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Corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), commonly infests field corn, Zea mays (L.). The combination of corn plant biology, corn earworm behavior in corn ecosystems, and field corn value renders corn earworm management with foliar insecticides noneconomical. Corn technologies containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Berliner (Bacillales: Bacillaceae) were introduced that exhibit substantial efficacy against corn earworm and may reduce mycotoxin contamination in grain. The first generation Bt traits in field corn demonstrated limited activity on corn earworm feeding on grain. The pyramided corn technologies have greater cumulative protein concentrations and higher expression throughout the plant, so these corn traits should provide effective management of this pest. Additionally, reduced kernel injury may affect physical grain quality. Experiments were conducted during 2011-2012 to investigate corn earworm impact on field corn yield and grain quality. Treatments included field corn hybrids expressing the Herculex, YieldGard, and Genuity VT Triple Pro technologies. Supplemental insecticide treatments were applied every 1-2 d from silk emergence until silk senescence to create a range of injured kernels for each technology. No significant relationship between the number of corn earworm damaged kernels and yield was observed for any technology/hybrid. In these studies, corn earworm larvae did not cause enough damage to impact yield. Additionally, no consistent relationship between corn earworm damage and aflatoxin contamination was observed. Based on these data, the economic value of pyramided Bt corn traits to corn producers, in the southern United States, appears to be from management of other lepidopteran insect pests including European and southwestern corn borer.
author list (cited authors)
Bibb, J. L., Cook, D., Catchot, A., Musser, F., Stewart, S. D., Leonard, B. R., ... Gore, J.