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.
Weed scouting a lost art
Scouting for weeds is nearly a lost art, Watters says. "When Roundup Ready crops arrived, we threw weed scouting out the window. Some weeds can produce seed in two-weeks. If you miss them, the seed bank is full, and you can have an awful time in years to come.”
Glyphosate-tolerant crops and resistance opened a door for dicamba and 2,4D-tolerant crops – and potential problems as a result, Potter says. With more than 200 weed-resistant species, there is no sure control, making scouting more vital than ever. Resistance puts increased emphasis on pre-emerge herbicides.
"Early evaluation lets you adjust your postemergent herbicides, and later evaluations let you see what worked and what didn't," says Potter. "Live and dead weeds mixed together after an application are a good indicator of resistance.”
With a wider variety of herbicides being used, Potter emphasizes scouting for off-target drift and herbicide injury.
Identification is only the first step; economic thresholds are equally important. "There have been years when we pulled the trigger to protect against aphids too early, killed off the beneficial insects and then had aphids roll in late," Watters says.
Accurate identification and thresholds require more than "drive-by" scouting. Identify a statistically valid pattern in a field and repeat it throughout the season, Watters adds. Apps like Aphid Speed Scout and Western Bean Cutworm Speed Scout from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, offer detailed scouting and evaluation directions.
However, neither apps nor smartphones are required, assures Watters.
Whether you scout in a W, Z or a circle doesn't matter as much as getting off the same row, out of tillage paths and planter rows to find random situations across the field, he says. "Just use the same pattern each time you scout. It's not a bad idea to use handheld GPS to mark the spots where you stop.”