Crop Scouting – What is Your Field Telling You?

Crop Scouting – What is Your Field Telling You?

May 31, 2024

Did you know your fields have a lot to tell you if you take the time to listen? Just like a doctor checks on patients to make sure they are healthy, crop scouting is how we check on our plants.

As you walk through your fields, you’re looking at your plants and soil, searching for signs that tell you how your crops are doing. This can help you find problems early, like pests, diseases, or nutrient shortages, so you can fix them before they get worse.

Why is crop scouting important?

  1. Early Detection: By finding problems early, you can stop them from spreading and causing more damage.
  2. Better Yields: Healthy plants produce more and better-quality crops.
  3. Save Money: By knowing exactly what your plants need, you can avoid spending money on unnecessary treatments.
  4. Environmental Protection: Using fewer chemicals helps keep our water and soil clean.

How often should you scout?

Ideally, you should scout your fields once a week during the growing season. Regular checks help you catch problems early and keep your crops healthy.

What to look for when scouting

When you’re out in your fields, here are some things to keep an eye on:

  1. Plant Health
  • Color: Healthy plants should be green. Yellow, brown, or purple leaves can mean problems.
  • Size: Plants that are too small or uneven in size might not be getting enough nutrients or water.

2. Pests

  • Insects: Look for bugs on the plants and in the soil. Some insects can harm your crops by eating them or spreading diseases.
  • Damage: Check for holes in leaves, chewed stems, or other signs that insects have been feeding on your plants.

3. Diseases

  • Spots and Blotches: Look for unusual spots or patches on leaves and stems.
  • Mold and Mildew: Watch for fuzzy or powdery growths on your plants. These can be signs of fungal diseases.

4. Weeds

  • Competing Plants: Weeds compete with your crops for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Identify and remove them to help your crops grow better.

5. Soil Condition

  • Moisture: Check if the soil is too dry or too wet. Both can affect how well your plants grow.
  • Texture: Healthy soil is loose and crumbly. If it’s hard and compacted, your plants might have trouble growing.

Tools for crop scouting

To make your scouting easier, here are some tools you might find helpful:

  • Notebook or App: Keep track of what you see each time you scout. This helps you notice changes over time.
  • Magnifying Glass: This can help you get a closer look at small insects or diseases.
  • Soil Testing Supplies: A soil probe and bucket for collecting samples.

What to do when you identify a potential issue when crop scouting

Finding a potential issue in your field during crop scouting is a critical step in ensuring the health of your crops. Here’s what you should do if you identify a problem:

  1. Document the Issue
  • Take Notes: Write down detailed observations about the issue, including the location, extent, and any visible symptoms.
  • Photos: Take clear photos of the affected plants or areas. This can help with identification and further analysis.

2. Identify the Problem

  • Research: Compare your observations with known symptoms of pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, or other problems.
  • Consult Experts: If you’re unsure, contact a Sylvite agronomist or Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) for help with identification.

3. Determine the Severity

  • Assess Damage: Evaluate how widespread and severe the problem is. Determine if it’s affecting a few plants or a larger section of your field.
  • Impact: Consider the potential impact on your overall crop yield and health.

4. Take Immediate Action

  • Initial Treatment: Apply any immediate treatments that are safe and recommended, such as removing infected plants, applying appropriate pesticides, or adjusting watering practices.

5. Develop a Management Plan

  • Consult: Work with an agronomist or Certified crop advisor to develop a comprehensive management plan tailored to the identified issue.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Consider using IPM strategies, which combine biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical controls to manage pests and diseases sustainably.

6. Monitor Regularly

  • Follow-Up: Continue to monitor the affected area closely. Keep track of any changes or improvements after implementing your management plan.
  • Adjust: Be prepared to adjust your approach if the problem persists or worsens.

7. Keep Records

  • Documentation: Maintain detailed records of the issue, actions taken, and outcomes. This information is valuable for future reference and can help prevent similar problems.

8. Learn and Adapt

  • Evaluate: After addressing the issue, evaluate the effectiveness of your response. Learn from the experience to improve your crop scouting and management practices.
  • Preventive Measures: Implement preventive measures to reduce the risk of the issue recurring in the future, such as crop rotation, resistant varieties, or improved soil management practices.

Listen to your fields

Crop scouting is like having a conversation with your fields. By paying attention to the signs your plants give you, you can help them grow strong and healthy. So, grab your notebook, head out to your fields, and start listening to what your crops have to say!