It has been 20 years since Bt corn and cotton were put on the market, and we are now seeing signs that some of the Cry toxins in Bt crops are less effective than they once were. It is certain that fall armyworm is resistant to Cry1F in parts of the country (but not known to be resistant on the High Plains), and corn earworm/cotton bollworm is showing elevated levels of tolerance to several of the toxins in Bt cotton and corn. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not suggesting we have resistance on the High Plains, but, given what is happening elsewhere in the country, I am saying that it would be prudent to begin watching our fields for elevated levels of damage from fall armyworm, corn earworm/cotton bollworm, southwestern corn borer and western bean cutworm. (This also goes for corn rootworm that is known to be resistant to at least one toxin in Bt corn.)
On top of this we have the old world bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera, knocking on the southern door of the U.S.A., and it may bring with it resistance to some Bt toxins. This species is indistinguishable from our domestic corn earworm/cotton bollworm, except by dissection of the adults. The Texas A&M University Department of Entomology and the AgriLife Extension Service have rapid sampling teams ready to collect from fields that might have H. armigera.
This post is a request for growers and consultants to report any signs of higher than normal damage to corn and cotton regardless of whether they have Bt or not, but especially if they have Bt. We can visit a field and determine whether the damage is within the bounds of "normal" and, if not, we can collect insects for resistance and/or H. armigera screening. My office phone number is (806) 746-6101. Pat Porter.