What is in this article?:
- Review scouting recommendations and calendars from your state Extension specialists, field guides and other resources.
- Establish a crop scouting plan and long-term record keeping for your crops, your fields and your management system.
- Schedule adequate time to do scouting yourself, contract with a consultant or input supplier or some combination of the three.
- Review tools from past seasons, update field guides, download PDFs and practice with new tools such as iPads, smartphones, optical sensors or handheld GPS units if you’re not familiar with them.
- Identify and follow a statistically valid scouting pattern that gets deep into the field and crosses multiple rows.
- Check with local agronomists and Extension specialists and attend local field days to be aware of developing pest issues and adapt scouting plan accordingly.
- Always scout first as part of an integrated pest management plan and treat only when needed to protect beneficials and avoid resistance.
- Evaluate this year’s ROI actions and adjust next year’s plans accordingly.
"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."
Like what you're reading? Subscribe to CSD Extra and get the latest news right to your inbox!
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.