"There’s nothing about scouting a farmer can't learn," says Bruce Potter, Minnesota Extension integrated pest management specialist. He, along with Ryan Wolf and Harold Watters scout extensively and train growers, crop consultants and agronomists how to scout. Scouting isn't just identifying a disease or insect pest, says Watters, an Ohio State University Extension field agronomist. "It’s also knowing the tools needed and developing an awareness of potential problems."

It is easy to forget things from year to year, adds Wolf, a regional agronomist with Winfield Solutions. Attending field days reminds you “what is going on in the area at a particular time."

Potter starts scouting when seedlings begin to emerge. "The first thing to be aware of is stand establishment," he says. Scouting should also reveal the cause, be it planter problems, pests or disease. However, diagnosis may require more help than a field guide or a smartphone can offer because nothing can be ruled out.

"Wire worms, white grubs and seed corn maggot problems were relatively rare in southern Minnesota even before insecticide seed treatments, and more so now, " Potter says. "However, in spite of advances in seed-applied pesticides, insects and pathogens still occasionally reduce emergence and early season stands."


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Scouting early and often for crop emergence offers a parallel opportunity to scout for weeds and herbicide resistance. Weeds cause more yield loss and added costs than insects, diseases and wildlife, says the Weed Science Society of America.