Dust off your notes from 2016 and put on your walking boots. It’s time to start planning for early-season crop scouting. In many areas throughout the South and Midwest, growers are well into planting. But there’s still a lot of work to do right after planting — early-season crop scouting. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Start early — earlier than you may have planned. First off, start scouting before emergence. Even if it’s not quite time for the crops to surface, something could be lurking below ground that may affect the seedlings. Below-ground insects such as seed corn maggots and wireworms can be present, and diseases such as Pytophthora root rot and Pythium root rot can be problematic before plants emerge. Areas where soil compaction may be an issue should be assessed to ensure plants aren’t having trouble emerging from the surface soil. And areas where high moisture is a concern need to be assessed to determine if replanting is necessary. Chances are if you detect these issues early, there’s still time to save your yield.
- Walk the fields. Whether you manage 200 or 2,000 acres, it’s far too much land to scout from the window of a pickup. Growers need to walk each field to detect problem areas. You can’t determine if you need to roll out a fungicide, insecticide or a post-emergent herbicide just by scouting the edges of your fields. Really get into those fields, dig in the dirt where certain areas may concern you and take soil samples if you need to.
- Once-overs won’t cut it. Crop scouting is a season-long job. Don’t expect a once-over after emergence to do the trick. I recommend growers walk their fields at least twice a week. Weeds can pop up in a matter of days which can change your yield outlook, and Mother Nature is unpredictable. Make crop scouting a weekly part of your job, all the way up to harvest.
- Review notes and take new ones. If you took notes from 2016, you should know what areas to check this year. Prior seedling diseases, past weed resistance issues and past insect infestations can help you develop a plan for managing your field after emergence. Scout those problem areas from 2016, and take new notes in 2017 as the season progresses.
- Ask for advice. As a farmer, you have a wealth of information about agriculture at your disposal. But there’s nothing wrong with asking an agronomist for input if you struggle to pinpoint a problem area in your field or understand why your plant stand isn’t where it should be. And stay in contact with your agronomist throughout the growing season, as they likely can tell you when other growers in your region experience problems with their fields. Stine has a number of agronomists on hand, ready to answer your questions throughout the planting, growing and harvest season. Find your local Stine agronomist here.