Scouting fields for weeds, disease and pests is one of the best investments you can make during the growing season to protect crop yield potential, says Missy Bauer, Farm Journal associate field agronomist. She notes: "While the following 10 scouting tips are in no way comprehensive, using them this season is sure to add bushels to your harvest come fall."
- Be proactive and timely. Know when to anticipate specific weeds, insects and diseases for your area and plan to scout accordingly.
- Track your local weather conditions. Environmental factors can significantly influence when and whether weeds, diseases and pests develop in your fields.
- Walk through fields using a zigzag or "W" shaped approach. This will help you get a more comprehensive overview of what potential problems each field you scout contains.
- Take good notes. Record the types, numbers and locations of weeds, disease or pests you have in each field as well as the time and date. Hang onto this information so you can reference it next year.
- Assign the job of insect scouting to a specific individual, a bug boss, who will make the scouting process a #1 priority in their day-to-day activities.
- Take action if insect threshold numbers are met, using sound integrated pest management (IPM) treatment practices.
- For disease scouting, check for plants that show signs of stunting, lesions, discoloration, yellowing and senescence. Get a laboratory diagnosis if you are unsure of the correct identification of the disease.
- For weed scouting, check your fields during early pre-plant and post emergence as well. Be vigilant to check fields for weed growth during the first three weeks following crop emergence to evaluate weed pressure and to determine whether you need supplemental control measures.
- If you find weeds, disease or insects you do not recognize, consult your agronomist, Extension personnel or a pest-identification guide.
- Take a pest kit with you to the field. Helpful tools include: pollen hat, safety glasses, scouting guides, tape measure, digital camera, hatchet, pocket knife, hand lens, vials or sandwich baggies for collecting samples, change of clothes, water to drink.
For More Agronomy Information
Have a row spacing, crop rotation, tillage or pest question? Through Farm Journal’s Ask an Agronomist blog, you can find answers.
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