Several transgenic lines of soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr., expressing a synthetic cry1A gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), were examined in replicated field trials in 2003–2007 for suppression of naturally occurring population densities of lepidopteran pests and the resultant crop injury that they caused. Bt soybean and negative controls (isogenic segregants and parental lines) were evaluated against velvetbean caterpillar, Anticarsia gemmatalis (Hübner); soybean looper, Pseudoplusia includens (Walker); and green cloverworm, Hypena scabra (F.). Population densities of these lepidopteran species were essentially absent in each of the Bt soybean entries evaluated throughout the growing season in every year of the study compared with moderate (5–10 larvae per row-m) to large (20–30 larvae per row-m) peak population densities in the negative control soybean entries. These lepidopteran populations caused significant plant injury in the non-Bt soybean plots, ranging from 53% defoliation in 2003 to 17.5% in 2007, compared with <1.5% defoliation (mostly 0.0% defoliation) in the Bt soybean plots. When two or three foliar insecticides were applied in August or September, as lepidopteran populations approached or exceeded economic threshold levels, pest populations were suppressed and defoliation was minimal in the treated non-Bt entries similar to results in Bt soybean. Soybean 100-seed weights and harvested yields were similar between the Bt and non-Bt entries each year of this study. It seems that Bt transgenic soybean provides excellent season-long control of lepidopteran pests and have yields equal to the standard cultivars examined in this study. Once available to producers, this Bt technology has the potential to provide an effective insect pest management option similar to that being used in Bt cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., and Bt corn, Zea mays L., and enhance the sustainability and profitability of soybean production in the southern region where lepidopteran pests cause annual economic losses to the crop.
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Vol. 102 • No. 4