Bt rice plants may protect neighbouring non-Bt rice plants against the striped stem borer, Chilo suppressalis

    The area planted with insect-resistant genetically engineered crops expressing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes has greatly increased in many areas of the world. Given the nearby presence of non-Bt crops (including those planted as refuges) and non-crop habitats, pests targeted by the Bt trait have a choice between Bt and non-Bt crops or weeds, and their host preference may greatly affect insect management and management of pest resistance to Bt proteins. In this study, we examined the oviposition preference of the target pest of Bt rice, Chilosuppressalis, for Bt versus non-Bt rice plants as influenced by previous damage caused by C. suppressalis larvae. The results showed that C. suppressalis females had no oviposition preference for undamaged Bt or non-Bt plants but were repelled by conspecific-damaged plants whether Bt or non-Bt. Consequently, C. suppressalis egg masses were more numerous on Bt plants than on neighbouring non-Bt plants both in greenhouse and in field experiments due to the significantly greater caterpillar damage on non-Bt plants. We also found evidence of poorer performance of C. suppressalis larvae on conspecific-damaged rice plants when compared with undamaged plants. GC-MS analyses showed that larval damage induced the release of volatiles that repelled mated C. suppressalis females in wind tunnel experiments. These findings suggest that Bt rice could act as a dead-end trap crop for C. suppressalis and thereby protect adjacent non-Bt rice plants. The results also indicate that the oviposition behaviour of target pest females should be considered in the development of Bt resistance management strategies.