iGEM ULethbridge 2023

Canola Disease Detection

Our aim is to create a cheap and easy to use detection kit that can help Alberta Farmers check their crops for Plasmodiophora brassicae, a soil-borne pathogen that causes the disease known as Clubroot.

What Is Clubroot?

Clubroot Is Spreading

So What Is Clubroot?

Clubroot is a soil-borne disease caused by the pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae. The disease affects plants in the Brassicaceae family which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, turnips. This family however also Includes Canola, an important crop grown in Western Canada.

Why is it so bad?

Plants infected with this disease will grow swollen and misshapen roots described as gulls or clubs which greatly affect the plant’s water and nutrient uptake leading to reduced growth and yield.

Canola field

A Local Issue

860,000 acres of Canola

And all of them are at risk

Alberta is responsible for producing 1/3 of Canada’s Canola. Lethbridge and surrounding areas of Southern Alberta are especially large in production of this crop with over 860,000 acres in canola crops.

Canola field
Canola field

It's Already Affecting Us

67% of Counties Suffer

Two thirds of counties have reported Clubroot

20 years ago, there was no prevalence of Clubroot found in Alberta and now nearly 67% of counties and districts are known to contain Clubroot and the disease continues to spread outwards from central Alberta. Lethbridge having yet to present the disease lies on the outer cusps of its progression.

The Current Detection Strategy

$95 Per PCR Test!

Currently the only way to detect Clubroot is with a PCR test which is can be very expensive to perform. Not only that but the process involves complex laboratory techniques and equipment, including specialized reagents and instruments, which require skilled technicians to operate and maintain. This porcess can take up to 1 week or longer to obtain results.


Counties Affected


Acres of Canola

>1 Week

Time for Results

Our Detection Method

On Site, Instant Results

Our detection system would involve test strips that would be very similar to the rapid-antigen test strips on the market like pregnancy, malaria, and Covid-19 kits.

We have rationally designed and engineered chimeric fluorescent probes such as, COAPE-GFP (BBa_K4139027), that will recognize structurally conserved epitopes on the pathogenic proteins present in Clubroot infected fields with one of our primary targets being PbEL04 protein (BBa_K4139021).

Our preliminary results have shown that our chimeric fluorescent probe does interact with PbEL04 as a proof of concept. Now, the next steps will be to determine the specificity and sensitivity of the engineered chimeric probe with infected Clubroot soil and root samples.

Following that we plan to move forward in making our Clubroot test strip where we would modify and re-engineer our chimeric probe to contain a lysine rich region where it can be conjugated with colloidal gold. Once conjugated, the protein could be used in the previously mentioned test kits.

If PbEL04 is present, the chimeric protein, CAPE-AFP (BBa_K4139025), will be active by visible light and give off a signal confirming a positive result.

Want to know more about our project?

Check Out These Videos!

Promotional Video

Check out our team's Promotional Video: Engineering a Direct Detection Assay for Clubroot Pathogen in Canola Soil and Roots

Global News Interview

See our PI get interviewed about our project! Here is the link to the full interview: full interview and article here