Bt Corn and European Corn Borer: Long-Term Success Through Resistance Management

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North Central Regional Publication

The European corn borer, a billion-dollar pest of field corn and sweet corn, is the primary target of a new technology call Bt corn. Bt corn hybrids were created by inserting genes from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These genes produce a protein toxic to some caterpillars, such as the European corn borer. Also contained in the genetic package is a promoter to "switch on" production of the proteins by corn and a marker to verify the package is functional Several seed companies now offer Bt corn hybrids to farmers and the number of hybrids is increasing rapidly.

Rapid introduction and promotion of Bt corn has many farmers and their agricultural advisors asking basic questions about the new technology. This publication reviews its creation, performance and prospective role in corn production. Because Bt corn provides unprecedented control of European corn borer, widespread use could set the stage for resistance. Proactive use of "refuges" of non-Bt corn is encouraged to delay development of resistance by European corn borer and to preserve the longevity of Bt corn technology.

Transgenic crops, such as Bt corn ,are at the forefront of a revolution in pest management. The concept of managing insects by a simple seed choicer is a powerful one. As with any new technology, Bt corn brings mixed feelings: excitement of using new technology, desire to know more about it, apprehension about its wise use and uncertainty about its value. Wise use and profitable use to go "hand-in-hand." In the next few years, much will be learned about how to use this new tool.


  • Bt corn
  • European corn borer
  • Corn hybrids
  • Insect management
  • Field corn
  • Sweet corn
  • Corn pests


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