Crop scouting may be one of your most important activities during the growing season. Scouting helps us to determine potential problems with crops and can help us to be more proactive in cases where we see problems developing. Additionally, scouting can be the best barometers to measure the results of your management decisions.
The biggest problem with scouting during the growing season is, it's when everyone is so busy spraying, mowing, side dressing, picking up rocks, working on equipment, and a million other activities that need to be done during the summer. If you don't have time to properly scout your own fields, it's easy to justify paying someone to do so. As we make changes in our production practices, it's critical to prioritize time to analyze and measure the results. It's pretty easy to spend $10-$30 an acre on a production change, so make sure that it pays.
One of my farming partners spends a tremendous amount of time during the growing season scouting crops. The potential for payback can be large. Generally, there are no big changes to be made, however, several small changes or adjustments can add up to a fairly large margin improvement.
Here is an example of some recent pictures he took scouting soybeans. In this instance, the field was being planted with treated soybeans, but at the end of the field they used untreated seed.
The pictures above are of treated seed. There was very little defoliation. It was also easy to find bean leaf beetle carcasses scattered along the row.
The pictures above are of the untreated seed. The bean leaf beetles were actively defoliating the plants. "To the row," it was easy to see the value of the seed treatment.
At harvest time we’ll be able to measure any yield difference, subtract the cost of seed treatment and measure the profit improvement.
This is just one example of a detectable problem during the growing season which may not be visibly detectable at harvest. If there is a yield difference, there would be no way to know precisely why at harvest without the correct information from scouting.
Margin improvements can only be made if you can measure and calculate your changes with precise information. Scouting with proper documentation will give you another tool which can help you improve profitability.