Two scientists from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale have developed a workable diagnostic tool to detect brown stem rot (BSR) early in soybean fields.

John Martinko and Laurie Achenbach coated a plastic stick with fungus molecules and dipped it into a slurry of ground-up plant tissue mixed with fungus antibodies marked with blue dye.

If plant tissue is healthy, antibodies will attack the fungus molecules on the stick and turn it blue. When plant tissue is sick, antibodies will attack the fungus molecules in the slurry so the stick won't change color.

The team has a rudimentary dipstick to field-test this coming growing season. The project was funded by the Illinois Checkoff Board.