5 Ways To Be A Better Scout

“Your record of observations and pictures is what enables you to accomplish things with your plan next season,” Ken Ferrie says. ( Darrell Smith )

With wet conditions, late planting and an overall rocky start, the scouting stakes are high this year. A critical eye will help see your crop through to harvest. These five tips will help you use technology to make your scouting efforts more effective.

Think of In-Season Record Collection as a Tool for Scouting

Your data set should cover all the basics of who, what, when and how of all field operations, application passes and observations.

“It’s important to have accurate records, so when you’re scouting the information is at hand and you can make sense of a weed break or stand count issues,” explains Scott Cogdill, Proagrica Agronomy Solutions director.

Keep the Process Simple and Transparent

Cogdill says there’s no reason to overthink the scouting process. For example, the first step before heading to the field is to prepare all of the information.

“The value in your scouting tools comes from the person being able to use them,” he says. “There’s nothing worse than trying to find information and get it organized next to a cornfield.”

Set the minimum requirements you want collected, and be transparent about those expectations if someone else is scouting.

“Dropping a pin that says ‘waterhemp’ doesn’t mean anything. But by adding the weed height and some other details, it does mean something.” Cogdill says.

Use Data to Prioritize Field Order

“Having a baseline of data helps you know what fields will need scouting first,” Cogdill says. “Remote imagery can also help you know what fields need to have a human eye put on them.”

Assemble the Right Team and Leader

According to Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie, farms with a designated pest boss (one person in charge of countering all crop threats) do a better, more timely job of pest control. And the quickest way to identify a good and effective pest boss is by how well they keep records.

“The best pest bosses know thorough record keeping is essential to pest management,” Ferrie says.

In-season, the pest boss might not be able to visit every field in a timely manner, but other individuals can scout and make sure that the resulting data is readily available to the pest boss and others who might benefit from it.

Bad Data Means Wasted Time

“When you don’t account for field history, you’re misusing time and losing efficiency,” Cogdill says. “Having the full picture gives you access to the core issue so it’s not misidentified.”  

For future reference, take pictures.

“It’s just as important to know where a herbicide failed as where it worked,” Ferrie says. “Your record of observations and pictures is what enables you to accomplish things with your plan next season.”