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Reduced Fusarium Ear Rot and Symptomless Infection in Kernels of Maize Genetically Engineered for European Corn Borer Resistance

October 1997 , Volume 87 , Number  10
Pages  1,071 - 1,077

G. P. Munkvold , R. L. Hellmich , and W. B. Showers

First author: Department of Plant Pathology, 351 Bessey Hall, Iowa State University, Ames 50011; second author: USDA-ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit and Department of Entomology, 109 Genetics Lab, Iowa State University, Ames 50011; and third author: Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames 50011

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Accepted for publication 11 July 1997.

Field experiments were conducted in 1994, 1995, and 1996 to evaluate the incidence and severity of Fusarium ear rot and the incidence of symp-tomless Fusarium infection in kernels of maize hybrids genetically engineered with Bacillus thuringiensis genes encoding for the δ-endotoxin CryIA(b). Treatments included manual infestation with European corn borer (ECB) larvae and insecticide applications to limit ECB activity to specific maize growth stages or mimic standard ECB control practices. Fusarium symptoms and infection were affected by the specific cryIA(b) transformation used in each hybrid that determines tissue-specific expression of CryIA(b). In hybrids expressing CryIA(b) in kernels, incidence and severity of Fusarium ear rot and incidence of symptomless kernel infection were reduced compared with near-isogenic hybrids lacking cryIA(b) genes. In plants that were manually infested with ECB, ear rot incidence was reduced by 87, 58, and 68%; severity was reduced by 96, 54, and 64%; and incidence of kernel infection by Fusarium species was reduced by 17, 38, and 38% in 1994, 1995, and 1996, respectively. Results were similar in treatments that were not manually infested, but differences between transgenic and nontransgenic hybrids were smaller. Most kernel infection was due to F. moniliforme, F. proliferatum, and F. subglutinans (section Liseola) collectively, and it was within this group that transgenic hybrids exhibited reduced infection. Expression of CryIA(b) in plant tissues other than kernels did not consistently affect Fusarium symptoms or infection. Disease incidence was positively correlated with ECB damage to kernels. Insecticide applications also reduced Fusarium symptoms and infection when applied to nontransgenic plants.

Additional keywords: Bt-toxin, corn, Gibberella.

The American Phytopathological Society, 1997