To truly understand your crop and help it grow is to go out and see it for yourself: field scouting. Unfortunately, too many farmers neglect to take this important step in crop management decision-making, and they miss the opportunity to spot pests and diseases before they become a bigger problem.
Yield loss and unnecessary spending result from farmers’ choosing to use the exact same crop management protocol year after year.
“The most important thing farmers can put on their fields is their shadow,” states Mo Way, professor of entomology at Texas A&M University.
Here are several tips from the experts on how to scout your fields for maximum results.
Although it’s tempting to wait until later, you should scout your fields early on in the growing season, before an outbreak has a chance to begin. Remember to test not only the edges but also other areas of your crop, recommends Professor Way. In this way, you are able to have a more thorough picture of how the crop is doing overall.
Getting out there early will also help you recognize problems that may not be disease-related but rather due to equipment problems.
Professor Way also notes that farmers tend to spend a significant amount of money on pesticides, to take care of what they think are harmful insects. However, many times these pesticides are affecting beneficial bugs; scouting your field will allow you to physically see the difference between the two.
Visually inspecting your crop will not only help you to distinguish between harmful and beneficial insects, but it will also give you a perspective on ground truthing. As part of the ground truthing process, you will want to inspect your crop’s growth, uniformity, and the development of the plant roots. Sampling the soil in both good and bad areas, along with tissue samples, will be useful for later comparison as well.
After having completed these steps, you will be prepared to gather the data and make better-informed decisions regarding your fields. This information will allow you to determine if any problems can be corrected immediately, or if you will need to wait until the following growing season to address the problem.
Use All Available Tools
One of the newest technologies helping the agricultural industry is the use of drones, which can take aerial images of fields and show growers potential areas for scouting. There are a wide range of satellite crop monitoring systems, such as Cropio by N.S.T Ltd., that can help farmers to keep an eye on all of their fields during the entire vegetation period and record the data accurately.
Since creating a pilot version of a product back in 2009, N.S.T Ltd. had seen a rapid growth of its client base. Following the 6 years of constant work on improvement and adjustments, N.S.T. presents its latest version of a brand new, scientific approach to an agricultural industry.
While drones show a lot of promise with their potential uses on the farm, Bauer recommends that farmers continue to use more familiar tools for scouting, such as GPS devices, tape measures, shovels, knives, and hatchets – and previous years’ records.