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Five Tips For Better Field Scouting

Good farm managers know devoting time and allocating resources to field crop scouting during the growing season pays dividends. Effective field scouting is documented, accurate, regular, and thorough. Follow these tips to help you get the most out of the time you spend in the field.

KEEP DETAILED RECORDS

A good record keeping system of scouting activities is very important. Commit to the discipline of making those records, and understanding what you have to keep track of. Use a pre-made checklist or form if you have to, and keep it with your field action records. At a minimum include an observation of the crop and field conditions. Crop stage or leaf stage is recorded for in-crop application timing. Plant stand counts determine if the targeted seeding rate was achieved. The evenness of the plant stand is an indication of the seeder’s performance. Make notes on weed patches, before and after control measures, to evaluate product performance and catch any misses.

You complete the picture when you combine your documented in-season observations with yield data. Pictures from field scouting are used as a reference when identifying weeds, insects, diseases and certain crop stages. Geo-referenced records and tagging an area in the field with GPS coordinates is used for spot treatment. GPS coordinates allow you to get back to the same area, so you can see if the situation is improving or deteriorating. Soil sample point coordinates are part of the ongoing field scouting program in the post-harvest season.

ENSURE ACC URACY

Accuracy is critical and this is the second part of effective crop scouting. Quite simply, you have to see what is really going on in the field and properly identify weeds, insects, disease and crop stage.

Improper diagnosis can lead to incorrect control product recommendations or application timing. If you are unsure about what you are seeing, don’t hesitate to ask someone else to verify it with you. High-resolution pictures from the field can be shared with local agronomists or your network of growers to help with identification. Some camera phones don’t have enough resolution to properly pick up the detail required for identification.

Be careful when collecting a sample to bring to show somebody — weeds will dry out and are hard to identify if not preserved; samples soaked in water will turn to mush if not seen quickly. Regional names for some weeds can cause confusion when looking for information in the provincial weed control guides, so get some clarification if you think there may be another name for the weed you are trying to control.

Just as we have plants in the field that we are growing and weeds that we aim to control we also have insects that we want to have in the field. Identify beneficial insects when you are identifying and counting pest insects.

BE CONSISTENT

Consistency and being proactive is the third element in effective crop scouting. Expect the crop to be at a certain stage when you are going to the field. Look for specific signs of herbicide activity if the field was recently sprayed. Review your notes from the previous scouting and anticipate what the differences should be.

Field scouting should be scheduled, planned and programmed. Set up your scouting schedule ahead of time based on planting date, as planting date is the starting point for the scouting schedule. Depending on the weather conditions, most plant development progresses at a programmed rate. You know you want to be in the field a certain number of days ahead of planting, after planting, and both before and after in-crop spraying. Efficacy check all the way through to pre-harvest, harvest timing and post-harvest evaluation. Compare fields to each other and look at planting dates and field histories. One field may be progressing normally and another one lagging behind.

BE THOROUGH

Being thorough is the fourth point of effective crop scouting. Have the right balance of details and the big picture. You need to get enough information to make decisions for the field while realizing you can’t get over every square foot. Instead, look at representative areas or compare historical trouble areas against normal or above-average ones. Scout the perimeter and use a quad or side-by-side to cover a large amount of acres.

Get in the field at the different times of the day to make observations. When targeting insects, consider when they are active and the best time for seeing them. A weather station with a minmax recording thermometer and a rain gauge in the field is a valuable tool for fields that are further away from the home yard. Follow through on the plan so that you don’t have to follow up on work that was supposed to be done.

COMMUNICATION

There is a fifth key to effective crop scouting — communication. This is crucial when dealing with an agronomist or crop scout who is doing some or all of the field scouting. Insist that they are communicating on what you require. Set expectations prior to the work being done in the field.

JasonCasselmanisapartnerandagronomist

withDunveganAGSolutionsInc.( www.howtogotoagsi.com), atRycroft,Alta.

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