Time For Scouting

Scouting

When winter melts away and the ground begins to thaw, growers’ thoughts turn to the health and potential yield of their crops. One of the best ways to get the season off to a great start — and ensure the best crop protection advice a retailer will give throughout the year — is to have a professional scout the field for pests, crop disease, and even soil issues that require attention.

Once Is Not Enough

Scouting can be one of the first actions a grower takes to prepare his crop for the season. “Usually, [we start] early April,” says Todd Kautzman of Mott Grain & Agronomy, Mott, ND. “We start scouting for weeds such as cheat and bromegrass.” This is a great way to find out what your crop is going to have to compete with during the season. Growers who want to get their plants in the ground as soon as possible can put off field scouting for a bit; Bruce Palmer, research agronomist, The McGregor Co., Colfax, WA, says the company typically starts scouting “once the crop has emerged from the seed bed.” This gives them the ability to scout not just for weeds, drainage problems, and insects, but also for nutrient deficiencies and diseases. Jim Shelton, a Landmark Services Cooperative agronomist in Juda, WI, said the company starts in late April, “with early scouting for no-till burn down herbicide selections.” Shelton added that Landmark’s scouts typically make two to four visits per year.

Indeed, most scouting isn’t a one-shot deal; Kautzman usually visits his growers two to five times per season. “In-season crop scouting is in late May and early June,” he says. Several visits to a customer’s field are necessary throughout the season to keep an eye on problems, look for new problems, react to weather complications or pest attacks, and make sure that the crop protection program is working.

The amount of visits made by McGregor “depends on the crop being raised, and the customer’s wants and needs,” Palmer explains. “Winter wheat has the longest growing season and will require more visits — one in the fall and up to seven or more in the spring. Some varieties require more visits due to a genetic disease package; other crops usually require a few less visits.”

Program Design

Because scouting is important for both the business of the retailer, who will provide the agricultural products necessary to protect the customer’s crop, and the grower, who wants the best production he can get from his field, it should be a combined effort. The field management program should be designed with the customer so that both parties have the same goal, know what the other wants, and agree on the best course of action.

This doesn’t mean that the grower must come along during the scouting; usually, the grower has other important chores on which to focus. “If the customer has time, I encourage them to come along,” says Kautzman, “but most of my scouting is done because the grower does not have time to scout himself. I carry a worksheet with me while I am scouting, recording the weeds I see, and then give them my recommendation. And he gets a copy of my scout sheet.”

For the ag retailer, knowing which crop will be grown in the field is important so he knows what specific problems to look for. Otherwise, once a crop plan has been put together for each field by the retailer and grower, the scout can visit the field alone. Palmer says that “unless requested by a grower or there is a concern that the grower needs to see first hand,” the grower does not need to go along. “The grower is kept abreast of any problems that have been discovered, either by written report, e-mail, or phone conversation,” Palmer explains.

Shelton agrees — growers serviced by Landmark scouts only accompany them on the visit “perhaps one-third of the time — or if there is something they need to see for themselves.”

Customer Response

“Customers love the scouting,” says Kautzman. “It’s just that they are not willing to pay a lot for this service.” Kautzman solves this problem by providing the service free of charge for customers he deems “patrons” — someone who is doing at least 60% of his total farm business with Mott Grain & Agronomy. “I only scout fields for my patrons. If not, I do not scout at all.” Kautzman doesn’t lose the business of his non-patrons, though: “The farmers in our area do a lot of field scouting; the majority of them do their own, and they come in and tell me what they have found and I give them a recommendation.”

Growers in North Dakota could be different than those in Washington — or other parts of the country. “Growers know the importance [of scouting], and as they increase in acreage they have less time and rely on us,” says Palmer. “At times, they may think that they can do their own scouting. They’re usually back for the service the following year.” McGregor’s grower-customers seem willing to make the investment in a professional scout. “They renew the contract annually for the service,” says Palmer. “I think this speaks for the value that they place in our crop advisers’ recommendations and constant monitoring of their crops.”

The repeat business is important, and customers grow to trust their retailer. “For those who we frequently scout for, I get to know their fields very well and help them decide what crops to rotate to the next year,” Kautzman says. Personalized service is also vital to building growers’ trust and appreciation for scouting, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. “We try to do what the customer is asking for,” says Palmer. Some growers may just want a basic look-over of their fields, along with recommendations on how to solve existing problems. Others are looking for preventative measures, and still others want in-depth solutions that only a field scout can provide. “We have a private soil testing company do our soil testing,” says Kautzman, describing a service that can greatly improve a grower’s knowledge of fertilizer, irrigation, and drainage requirements and help the retailer provide solutions to these impediments.

Landmark also offers various levels of scouting: “We can make it a simple one-shot deal, or more comprehensive including plant tissue testing and aerial NDVI photography,” explains Shelton. “Growers always appreciate you scouting their fields. They appreciate and expect the same level of performance each and every year.” This favorable reaction to scouting programs always comes, says Shelton, “right up to the time you wish to charge for them.” This has been somewhat of a hurdle for Landmark; they’ve “never had a problem convincing growers of the importance” of scouting, Shelton says. “The problem is getting them to pay for it when they expect it as a comp service, as they are buying from us.” Landmark has provided scouting as a comp service for decades, he explains, so growers thoughts are: “Why should they pay for it today?”

‘Tis The Season

Whether a retailer provides the service for free to his best customers or charges for a comprehensive scouting program, a good scout is a great asset to any grower’s operation. While it’s still early in the year, and crops haven’t even gone into the ground yet in many parts of the country, retailers are already forecasting problems that they might expect their customers to run into this year. “As wet as it is at this time, I am sure we are going to see an increase in tan spot, rust, and other leaf diseases,” says Kautzman.

As for Palmer, he’s not yet sure what to expect from the coming season. “But we will be the first to find out when the time comes,” he says.

Leave a Reply

Fungicides Stories
FungicidesSudden Death Syndrome, Brown Stem Rot Reported In Indiana Soybeans
September 3, 2014
Farmers and retailers should be watching for symptoms of these two diseases over the next few weeks as they are best managed through preventative methods. Read More
FungicidesResearchers Target Soybean Disease With Genetic Resistance Study
August 6, 2014
University of Illinois researchers will share new information on controlling sudden death syndrome through genetic resistance at this year's Agronomy Day. Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesValent Launches New Seed Protection Fungicide For Soybeans
July 16, 2014
The INTEGO SUITE System contains the first new, novel seed protection fungicide chemistry registered in 30 years by the EPA for protection against Pythium and Phytophthora. Read More
FungicidesNew Players May Make Pest Headlines In Corn, Soybean
April 1, 2014
The usual insects and diseases took a bit of a break in 2013, but other culprits surfaced — and could return. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
West Central Sac City growers
StewardshipIowa Lawsuit Challenges Ag’s Water Quality Efforts
May 3, 2015
Nutrient problems in west-central Iowa’s water supply made national headlines in March when the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) filed Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Always About Agriculture
May 2, 2015
When you consider their respective backgrounds, it’s little wonder why Dow AgroSciences and new President/CEO Tim Hassinger ended up together. Read More
Nozzle spray close-up
AdjuvantsSpray Drift Enters More Complex Era
May 1, 2015
Off-target movement of crop protection products has been a problem for decades. The issue got more contentious when glyphosate-tolerant crops Read More
Crop InputsTop 10 Twitter Pics For #Plant15
April 30, 2015
Growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s crop. Fortunately, many of them still have time to Read More
ManagementIowa Retailer Sticks Up For Agriculture and New Spray D…
April 30, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about how one Iowa ag retailer is working to defend agricultural practices and an Read More
Dow AgroSciences Logo wall
Seed/BiotechNew Soybean Trait Agreement To Use Dow AgroSciencesR…
April 30, 2015
Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., Arcadia Biosciences, Inc. and Bioceres, S.A. have formed an agreement Read More
Confluence of St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers in Minnesota
StewardshipAgricultural Runoff Among Causes Of Water Quality Issue…
April 30, 2015
A new report released April 29 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency provides additional evidence that agricultural and urban runoff Read More
EquipmentTop 30 IRON WORKS Cartoons Of All Time
April 29, 2015
When CropLife IRON first started publishing more than a decade ago, long-time Publisher Al Strohmaier decided to start a cartoon Read More
StewardshipCPS-Hillsboro Becomes First ResponsibleAg Certified Fac…
April 29, 2015
Unlike a race where the first finisher takes home a medal or blue ribbon, safety and regulatory compliance doesn’t often Read More
HerbicidesWeed Scientists Offer New Definition For ‘Superwe…
April 28, 2015
The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has joined with six sister organizations to recommend a new definition for superweed Read More
Crop InputsValent Announces “Relentless As You’ Contes…
April 28, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation today announced the winners of its national “Relentless As You” contest, which recognized the relentless spirit of Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta’s Acuron Secures EPA Federal Approval
April 28, 2015
Growers looking to control difficult weeds like waterhemp, giant ragweed and Palmer amaranth will have access to Acuron corn herbicide Read More
FertilizerSimplot’s Gal-XeONE Technology Moves West
April 27, 2015
The J.R. Simplot Co. remains committed to creating customer value through technology. In 2013, Simplot purchased the Gal-XeONE controlled release Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Need To Defend Production Agriculture
April 27, 2015
Last week, I spent the better part of my time on the road visiting with ag retailers and market suppliers Read More
FertilizerStarter Fertilizers Show Value In Stressful Spring Cond…
April 27, 2015
From wet, cold conditions in the eastern Corn Belt to excessively dry, cool soils in the Plains states, spring field Read More
StewardshipTFI Announces Renewed Financial Commitment To Fertilize…
April 24, 2015
Today, The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) President Chris Jahn announced that TFI and over 100 partners will more than double existing Read More
Industry NewsMACA Names New Ambassador Coordinator
April 23, 2015
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has named Michelle Kilper as its new Ambassador Coordinator. Michelle is a graduate of Read More
ManagementAg Retailer’s Role In Local Policy Making; Raising The …
April 23, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review their recent travels, precision ag efforts in Washington, DC, and the role of Read More