Andrew Bowman, owner of Bowman Crop Assure, Oneida, IL, suggests three considerations for determining whether or not to hire a professional:

  • Time. How much time are you willing to spend walking fields? Bowman says 25-90 minutes/80-acre field is a good rule of thumb. If you scout regularly and cover all acreage multiple times a year, you may be able to walk fields more quickly. Bowman's clients generally fit into one of three time categories: farmers with greater strengths or interests in other aspects of farming; farmers with other enterprises or too many acres to manage alone; aging farmers who prefer not to walk fields.
  • Skill. If you feel you have time, do you have the skill and want to develop it?  Bowman says scouting has changed dramatically in the last few years, from monitoring European corn borer to understanding new pests and technologies like western bean cutworm, brown marmorated stinkbug and the Illinois soil-nitrate test. He says farmers that do not want to devote time to learning may want to work with someone with the skill and commitment to continuing education and crop-advisor certification.
  • Level. Determine what level, if any, professional service you might want.  Decide if you need help as conditions merit making observations, help with variable-rate recommendations or other out-of-field services, including number of scouting visits, intensity of each trip or hours required. If you decide on a professional, hire an accredited Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) that carries errors and omissions professional liability insurance. If you decide you only want someone to stage the crop and determine application timing, hire an FFA student or have an employee look at fields weekly.