An environmentally sound car care product took top honors at the 2001 Innovative Uses of Soybeans Contest.

Developed by grad student Lisa Durso, of Lincoln, Eco-Auto is an all-natural, soy-based car maintenance product. It brings out the original, natural color in vehicles’ plastic, vinyl and rubber surfaces. And it helps restore their original luster and shine, says Durso, who is a food microbiology doctorate student at the University of Nebraska.

The contest, sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board and the university’s Industrial Agricultural Products Center, was open to students at all Nebraska colleges and universities.

"People are always going to have automobiles," Durso says. The

product is to make car care more environmentally sound, she adds. "What I learned the most is what people can do with soy. Almost anything can be done with soy. That’s so cool."

Durso says she’s had this idea for years.

"I like the idea of a well-maintained vehicle but I am also reluctant

to buy products that may be harmful to the environment or my health," she says. "I have spent many hours in auto parts stores searching for environmentally friendly solutions only to leave empty-handed. Trips to the local food or natural product stores were equally unsuccessful."

Durso’s product isn’t commercially available, but she is exploring

production and marketing possibilities.

Durso developed the product, which has nothing to do with her field of study, on her own. She doesn’t have a chemical background, she says.

"People thought I was crazy," she says.

Durso will be honored at the Nebraska Soybean Board’s meeting Nov. 12 at the Country Inn & Suites in Lincoln. She’ll receive $3,500.

Norm Husa, Nebraska Soybean Board chairman, says the contest offers new uses of soybeans through research and development of any part of the soybean, which may be the meal, oil or use through plastics.

"That’s the main purpose: to develop new products made from soybeans to make it more profitable for soybean farmers," Husa says. "It may be a small project that takes a thousand bushels of soybeans or something bigger that uses a million bushels. Hopefully, we can have another new use for soybean products."

Loren Isom, technical assistance coordinator for the university’s

Industrial Agricultural Products Center, says the focus of the contest is to stimulate creativity among students and develop innovative and new uses for soybeans.

Durso learned how to develop and analyze the market potential of a new product, he says.

"This contest allows students to explore their entrepreneurial skills

and be creative," he says. "It offers learning books can’t and out-of-the classroom experience. As an end result, it proves and enhances employable skills."

Entries for the 2002 contest will be accepted until March 1, 2002.

Winning, runner-up and honorable mention prizes are available for top

entries from Nebraska college and university students. This year only the winning award was given. There is no entry fee.

For more information, visit the Web site at http://agproducts.unl.edu/contest.htm.