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Cooper Bassham – 2019 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Award Winner Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair

Cooper Bassham, age 17, a junior at Salem High School, won the Soybean Science Challenge at the 2019 Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair held at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro on March 8.

Cooper Bassham, Salem High School, Salem, AR

Teacher: Amanda Smith

Category: Plant Sciences

Project Title: Use of biological control agents to inhibit the growth of phytopathogenic bacteria

By the year 2050, the global population is expected to reach nine billion. This poses serious issues for the global food supply which will need to double to meet the demands of the ever more populated planet. Soybeans are one crop that offers a possible solution to this issue. They are one of the most important cash crops in the United States and offer a nutritious option for the growing population. Unfortunately, in 2016 approximately 82.29 million bushels of soybeans were lost to crop disease. This resulted in a huge economic loss for farmers and a significant reduction in the number of consumers benefitted. The purpose of this project was to identify microorganisms that had the potential to be effective biological control agents. Using pathogens of rice, tomatoes and onions, an experiment was conducted that would establish a procedure template, with hopes that results from the conducted trials would be representative of biological control agents in soybeans.


1). Preparation of medium. 2). Broth culture inoculation 3). Bacteria preparation 4). Spectrophotometry 5). Concentration calculations 6). Dilution 7). Phytopathogen plating 8). Antagonist bacteria plating 9). Evaluate results.


The method of data collection was the measurement of the area of zone of inhibition, which is indicative of the effectiveness of the antagonist bacteria as a biological control agent.


Based on the data gathered from the experiment, several specimens of interest were identified that will undergo further testing to determine the mechanism by which the microorganism affects the pathogen and from there in vitro tissue trials.


Cooper Bassham wins 2019 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Award at Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair

Cooper Bassham, age 17, a junior at Salem High School in Salem won the Soybean Science Challenge at the 2019 Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair held at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, March 8.

Bassham received a $300 cash award provided by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board at the awards ceremony. His science project titled “Use of biological control agents to inhibit the growth of phytopathogenic bacteria” also received first place in Plant Science, the Air Force Award, the ASM: Material Education Foundation Award, and second place overall Best of Fair.

Bassham will compete at the Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair, March 29. Amanda Smith, Bassham’s teacher, won the $200 Soybean Science Challenge Teacher Mentor Award. Smith said The Soybean Science Challenge is an exciting opportunity for her students. “Soybeans are a vital crop for farmers in Arkansas and directly affect my students’ lives. Using the Soybean Science Challenge in the classroom has also met a lot of my students’ learning goals,” she said.

Bassham felt especially honored to be the winner of the 2019 Soybean Science Challenge, particularly since there were so many other great projects. Cooper’s parents, Alan and Carla Bassham were thrilled about his award. “We are so proud of Cooper for his commitment to this project. He worked hard and continues to amaze us with his desire to learn and achieve success,” they replied.

Bassham enjoyed the Soybean Science Challenge online course. “I liked the overall design and the course was easy to follow. It helped to maximize the knowledge that I needed for my project,” he said.

Smith noted that Bassham’s interest in the Soybean Science Challenge peaked her own. “The Soybean Science Challenge has been a wonderful journey. Cooper’s interest drove me to learn more about it and then to use the program with my other science students,” she said.

Both Smith and Bassham mentioned the impact the Soybean Science Challenge has had on them.  “Prior to my participation in the Soybean Science Challenge, I had very little knowledge about Arkansas soybeans and their incredibly far-reaching range of influence,” replied Bassam.

Smith also had limited knowledge about farming soybeans. “Before participation in the Soybean Science Challenge, I knew very little about soybeans. Because of my student’s participation in The Challenge, I gained an appreciation for all our Arkansas soybean farmers. The soybean crop is very important to Arkansas and the world!”

“The Soybean Science Challenge provides an opportunity for Arkansas High School students to participate in scientific research that can impact the State of Arkansas as well as the world. Soybean Science Challenge student researchers learn about this important commodity crop and its many uses including feeding the world, development of biofuels and sustainable products. The Soybean Science Challenge helps students develop an understanding of the challenges and complexities of modern farming,” said Dr. Julie Robinson, Assistant Professor and director of the program.

“The goal of the Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge is to engage students in “real world” education to support soybean production and agricultural sustainability’” said Gary Sitzer, a member of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. “The program also rewards scientific inquiry and discovery that supports the Arkansas Soybean Industry.”

The Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge was launched in January 2014 to 9-12th grade science students. Students who successfully completed the online course were eligible to have their original soybean-related research projects judged at the 2019 ISEF-affiliated Arkansas Science and Engineering Fairs.

Information on the 2019-2020 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge will be available in summer 2019. For more information, contact Dr. Julie Robinson at or Diedre Young at

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

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