It's a good time of year for producers to plan their scouting programs for this growing season. Darrell Deneke, Integrated Pest Management coordinator for South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension, said regular scouting pays off in information that can help producers earn more money. Scouting reveals the pests that are present; the stage of growth of the pest and the crop; if the pests are parasitized or diseased; if the pest is increasing or decreasing; and the condition of the crop.

Deneke added that keeping accurate records of the field location, field history, current conditions and current pest status is also a vital step.

"Part of the successful scouting program not only involves the field monitoring, but this very important part of record-keeping: Maintaining a field history and current conditions so you can use this as far as a pest-management plan in the future and also plan which type of crop rotations and so on you want to use," Deneke said.

A good rule of thumb is to scout at least once a week, and perhaps more often during certain times of the growing season. For example, insect densities may have to be monitored closely to determine when damage is reaching the economic threshold at which a producer saves money by spraying.

"As far as scouting procedures, they do vary depending on whether you're looking at insects, diseases or weeds and even within the different types of pests," Deneke said. "Some of the insects you're going to be following and looking for more toward the border of the fields, and other insects you're going to be checking more into some of the different terrains, lower areas of the field and so on. You need to be familiar with the pests that you have had. This is where that record that you've had of past programs is going to be very important."

Samples should be taken from representative areas of the field, Deneke said, with sampling sites evenly distributed over the field and plants selected at random.

For more information on field scouting management, consult your local county Extension agronomy educator.