You will often hear the statement “the best thing to put into your field is your shadow” or your “footprint”, or “boots” and the list goes on. This statement is very true, but begs the question “how can I be more effective when I am in my fields?” Understanding where to look first, what to look for or knowing where to look based on past observations is going to go a long way to making sure you get the most out of your scouts.
1. Seeing the big picture
First and foremost, especially when on a general scout try and keep an open mind. I often find that when farmers or agronomists go into a field they are there for one specific reason, whether it be herbicide timing looking for weeds, fungicide timing looking for disease and staging or something else, but this encourages tunnel vision and you can get too caught up only looking for one thing. Doing this means you could be missing the bigger picture.
2. Plan your scouting trip
Keeping the above comment in mind, sometimes there are situations where you are going to be going on a specific scout because you heard there were insects or a certain disease in the area. I find that if you can prepare yourself before going out to the field you are setting yourself up for a more effective scout. For example, if it’s an insect you are looking for prepare yourself with the typical places it will hide on the plant, what its different instars look like, what its damage looks like and more. This is going to give you every opportunity to truly identify if the pest is in your field.
Next, make notes of everything you are seeing, from being on a scout or on a sprayer pass. At every part of the season there may be observations worth taking note of whether it be emergence issues, weed issues or plant health issues. Making notes of these observations as you observe them means they are going to be the most accurate and not be forgotten about. Consider using a mobile app that keeps records year-over-year: having easy access to scouting notes is going to pay dividends when it comes time to make decisions about what to spray or plant in later years. Keeping these records will also give you insight into where to ground truth your fields if you are identifying yield variations (or maturity/quality variations) whether it be on your yield maps, in the combine on the monitor or through different types of crop imagery such as NDVI.
4. The right tools for the job
Lastly, bring the right tools. Make sure you are bringing ziplock bags for weeds or sick looking plants, bring containers for insects that may need identification, and have things like rulers, hula hoops, shovels, and scissors to dig, cut and measure. Being prepared allows you to get the right information from your scout and make it exact.
Following these quick tips is going to help you get the most out of your scouting this season. If you’re in the market for a crop scouting app, learn more about the Croptivity Scouting Solution.