By: Cory Jacob, Regional Crops Specialist, Watrous
Growers have been getting better at getting out and scouting their fields, however it is tough to resist high-speed field scouting, which is slowing down while driving past a field, not stopping and carrying on unless something major stands out. Imagine how many acres a field scout could cover in a day if this was their method. High-speed field scouting is a really inefficient method to see what is going on in each individual field. You need to make an effort to stop and take an in-depth look within each field. Field scouting allows you to see weed, disease, insect, and fertility issues as well as pesticide efficacy and you can stage your crop. Field scouting also allows you to catch an issue at the early stages before it becomes a big problem that could cost you irreplaceable yield or a lot of money. Being significantly helps your bottom line.
When it comes to scouting each field, you need to scout a large area of that field, just checking the headlands will not be a good indicator of the rest of the field. I recommend scouting in a large “W” or zig zag pattern, stopping and taking an in-depth look and then changing your direction to eventually complete the scouting pattern. Checking a field from multiple sides is also very accurate, if accessible, you could scout from different sides of the field and work your way towards the middle. Since a lot of fields are not simply farmed as a lone quarter section, but rather half sections, full sections, two full sections, or some combination of multiple quarter sections, you need to scout a larger area. If you are scouting a full section that is being treated as one field, then you need to cover a large area as you are getting a representation of 640 acres rather than 160 acres. You need to scout in large and multiple patterns or you could check each individual quarter in the section.
If you don’t have the time to scout, then you should consider hiring a field scout or a private agronomist. With growers having less and less spare time, coupled with covering more acres, this is a very popular option. Some crop input retails will package field scouting into certain packages, which is cost effective. If you are hiring a field scout or private agronomist, you need to be confident in the person’s judgment and competency. Many field scouts and private agronomists work extremely hard to get an idea of what is going on in each field. Additionally, they are highly knowledgeable and can easily provide a recommendation to deal with an issue before it becomes a large problem. At the end of the day you should recognize that someone needs to be checking fields regularly and that accurate field scouting takes time and knowledge.
For more information, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre or your nearest Regional Crops Specialist.