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

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

Syngenta
Crop InputsSyngenta Launches Plant Breeding Academy
October 1, 2014
Syngenta announces the release of its Breeding Academy, a global initiative designed to enable the continued development of scientists at Syngenta and beyond. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More