Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Benefits of Bt corn go beyond rootworm resistance

Date:
February 6, 2013
Source:
American Society of Agronomy
Summary:
Researchers find that Bt corn has higher yields and uses nitrogen more efficiently than non-Bt corn.

Engineered to produce the bacterial toxin, Bt, "Bt corn" resists attack by corn rootworm, a pest that feeds on roots and can cause annual losses of up to $1 billion. But besides merely protecting against these losses, the Bt trait has also boosted corn yields, in some cases beyond normal expectations. So what makes it so successful?

Fred Below and Jason Haegele of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to answer that question by determining how Bt corn uses nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for corn, and with better root systems, it's possible that Bt corn uses nitrogen differently than non-resistant strains, the scientists hypothesized, in turn affecting corn production. The study, published February 6 in Crop Science, showed just that -- Bt corn had higher yields and used nitrogen more efficiently than non-resistant corn.

With its resistance to corn rootworm, Below explains, Bt corn has healthier and more active roots than corn without the resistance trait. And a better root system can lead to improved function for the plant as a whole.

"If you can protect the investment the plants made in the root system," explains Below, "you can realize everything that roots do like take up nutrients and water and provide anchorage."

The researchers conducted experiments over two years, growing resistant and non-resistant crops and applying five different amounts of nitrogen. The resistant corn had higher yields than the non-resistant crops (nearly 21 bushels per acre) and more easily tolerated low nitrogen levels.

More efficient use of nitrogen in the soil would be especially beneficial in areas where nitrogen is lost through heavy precipitation or erosion. Additionally, Bt corn would fare better at current levels of nitrogen use in the United States.

"In 2010, the average nitrogen application rate for corn production was around 140 lb/acre," say Haegele and Below. "Our study shows that the resistant strains we evaluated would have higher yields at that rate of nitrogen application."

The healthy roots and efficient nutrient use of Bt corn could lead to changes in management practices that would further increase production. Banded or placed fertility, a method by which a farmer can place fertilizer where the roots are likely to be, would be more effective when used on the robust root system. Additionally, increasing plant populations could further increase yield.

"When you have a higher population of plants, each individual plant has a smaller root system, so that made it difficult to increase plant population when you had insects chewing on the roots," explains Below. "With the Bt corn, though, you can protect the root system and grow more plants."

In addition to its utility in crop production, Below is hopeful that Bt corn will open up new avenues of research as scientists begin to better understand root systems. "Plant roots are below ground and are hard to study. It's a big, unexplored horizon, both in agronomics and crop biology. I think that's why the trait is of such value."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society of Agronomy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jason W. Haegele, Frederick E. Below. Transgenic Corn Rootworm Protection Increases Grain Yield and Nitrogen Use of Maize. Crop Science, 2013; 53 (2): 585 DOI: 10.2135/cropsci2012.06.0348

Cite This Page:

American Society of Agronomy. "Benefits of Bt corn go beyond rootworm resistance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206110920.htm>.
American Society of Agronomy. (2013, February 6). Benefits of Bt corn go beyond rootworm resistance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206110920.htm
American Society of Agronomy. "Benefits of Bt corn go beyond rootworm resistance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206110920.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins