Crop scouting is when fields are evaluated for pest and disease problems, or for checking in on growth progress. Scouting is important because if a problem of any kind is found in the field, it can be solved or managed as quickly as possible. This process is critical for farmers to grow their best crops and have the highest yields possible, which allows them to make the most profit. Crop scouting is a critical tool to protect a farmer’s investment in each field.
Jeff Grampp is a salesman for United Prairie, a full-service agriculture retail company here in Central Illinois. He explains the importance of crop scouting. “The benefit of crop scouting is staying ahead of any problems that the crop may have. Preventative is usually a lot better than curative,” Grampp says. He attempts to look at each customer’s fields a minimum of three times before the crop is out in the fall. Grampp continued, “If you know you have a problem field, you want to visit it more often.”
Crop scouting does not just start once the seeds are planted into the ground. Jeff Grampp is one of many people that scout fields pre-planting, Many farmers, advisors, and people involved will start scouting before planting. This goes along with the trend of being proactive to problems present and making sure that everything looks right before planting begins.
Before planting, fields are often checked to see what weeds are growing and what stage of growing they are in. At the time of planting, scouting can help farmers make informed decisions on what seed depth and rate they should use. After planting, scouting helps to show early signs of pests, damaged seeds, and other factors. After plants emerge and throughout the growing season, scouting is beneficial to prevent weed and pest damage and see post-spraying performance.
There are multiple methods to crop scouting. The traditional method is walking through or driving by fields to observe the plants. The scouter will take notes to help make a proper diagnosis and have a record of what areas need to be observed more with future scouting. Newer technology, such as drones, are another way that crop scouting can be done. Drones allow farmers to see areas of fields that are difficult to see from the edge, as well as provide new viewing points to identify problems. Drones provide the “bird’s eye view”.
As fields are scouted, the scouter will stop at several points to take a closer look at what the plants in each area are doing. Jason Grampp described why this is important. He explained that when a plant is giving signs of a certain deficiency, it doesn’t always mean that the field is deprived of that certain nutrient. It is important to look at plant roots because the roots may just be having some trouble reaching the nutrients needed. Looking at multiple individual plants gives the scouter a better idea of what is really going on in each area of the field. Further tests can be done with a plant tissue test to confirm if there is a nutrient deficiency or if there is another problem going on.
An upcoming publication of the paper will have an “Ask a Farmer” article published in this Agriculture Column! The goal of the article is to provide answers to agriculture questions that our community members have directly from local farmers. Please contact me, Chloe Scroggins, at Chloe.Scroggins@themailnewspapers.com with any agricultural questions you have for our farmers! Answers can come from farmers and agricultural workers in our community, depending on what questions are sent in. Thank you in advance!