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Biocontrol Science and Technology
22, No. 5, 2012; Pages: 567 - 582

Microbial control of cotton pests. Part I: Use of the naturally occurring entomopathogenic fungus Aspergillus sp. (BC 639) in the management of Creontiades dilutus (Stal) (Hemiptera: Miridae) and beneficial insects on transgenic cotton crops

Robert K. Mensaha and Leah Austin


The development and adoption of transgenic (Bt) crops that express the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin has reduced the use of synthetic insecticide on transgenic crops to target Helicoverpa spp., the major insect pest of cotton in Australia. However, it has also increased the threat posed by sucking pests, particularly Creontiades dilutus (green mirid), which are unaffected by the Bt toxins in transgenic cotton crops. Here we report the efficacy of the entomopathogenic fungus Aspergillus sp. (BC 639) in controlling the infestation of transgenic cotton crops by C. dilutus and promoting interactions of transgenic cotton with beneficial insects. The results showed that the number of C. dilutus adults and nymphs recorded on plots treated with 1000, 750, 500, 250 ml/ha BC 639 fungus formulation were the same as on plots treated with the recommended concentration of the commercial insecticide Fipronil. The fungus was found to have minimal effect on predatory insects compared with Fipronil and was most effective against C. dilutus when applied at the rate of 500 ml/ha (equivalent to 50 g spores/ha). At this rate, the fungus was as effective as Fipronil for controlling C. dilutus populations and ensured the survival of predatory beetles, lacewings and spiders compared with Fipronil treatment. The yield from fungus-treated plots was 5.24 bales per acre compared with 5.40 and 3.88 bales per acre for Fipronil-treated and unsprayed plots, respectively. The ability of the BC 639 strain to control C. dilutus infestations of transgenic cotton crops while conserving beneficial insect populations suggests its potential for supplementing integrated pest management programs to reduce the use of synthetic insecticides for transgenic cropping systems.

Keywords: transgenic cotton, entomopathogenic fungus, integrated pest management, Creontiades dilutus , Helicoverpa spp, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).



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