Top Scouting Tips

Crop scouts can serve as your grower-customers’ first line of defense against potential yield-robbers in the field. They can also help your growers’ and your business enjoy a profitable season.

A lot rides on the scout’s ability to pinpoint concerns and provide recommendations.

“Scouting and making recommendations is a big responsibility because there’s a lot of money at stake,” says Alan Sparkman, agronomy marketing manager at Tennessee Farmers Cooperative in LaVergne, TN. “There’s the business impact of your recommendations for both the farmer’s and your business. There’s also the environmental impacts of your recommendations.”

How can you use your crop scouts to your best business advantage? Several CropLife 100 retailers from across the U.S. share some key practices that have helped their operations excel at scouting with their grower-customers.

Scouting Tip No. 1: Provide Quality Service

This may seem like a gimme, but there’s more to good scouting than knowing your area’s weed, insect, and disease pests and their economic thresholds verbatim, or why a field of seed failed to germinate.

For example, the initial visit of the season often is in response to a grower’s request, but any necessary followup visits are up to your staff, and good timing is critical.

That includes knowing the current conditions in the field, which will aid your diagnosis, says Dan Armbruster, agronomy salesman at Cooperative Elevators Co., Pigeon, MI. Situated in the state’s “thumb,” the co-op provides 12 agronomy salesmen and two summer interns to scout dry beans, sugar beets, corn, and soybeans.

“Make sure you’re aware of the conditions that are out there,” he says. “If you’re scouting for diseases, make sure that you’ve got favorable conditions for the disease.”

Visiting the field too soon risks missing the disease signals or an inaccurate economic threshold estimate; too late may miss the window for prevention or control.

Take the time to check a field properly, even during the busy spring season. “Take a large sample area that you’re scouting, don’t just walk into the corner of a field and look and say ‘here’s what I got,’” says Armbruster, adding that taking notes — whether by hand on a notepad or in a handheld electronic device — is essential. “Write down what you see, put it in a file and keep it so you can go back later and see, ‘oh yeah, this is why we did this, this is why we didn’t do this.’”

Tip No. 2: You Can’t Know Everything

However, you can get answers.

“If you don’t know, ask questions,” says Sparkman, whose co-op provides scouting for cotton, corn, soybeans, and winter wheat. “Nobody knows everything. If you see something in the field that you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask a ‘dumb’ question about it.

“Many times even experienced scouts bring in a new or different weed and say, ‘I’ve never seen this weed before,” he adds.

Sources for answers include co-workers, printed and online materials, and your state’s land grant university’s laboratory/diagnostics center.

Northwest Ag Supply’s Bob Hanson, an agronomy salesman who’s been scouting for nearly 30 years, carries his insect identification guide when he heads into a grower’s corn or soybean field. “Sometimes you simply have to get the book out to diagnose what’s going on,” he says. When that isn’t enough, he heads back to the office in Hartley, IA, finds the state specialist’s answer on the Internet, and then provides advice.

When a grower has questions you can’t answer, explain that you’ll get that information, and then do it — promptly, says Armbruster. His co-op’s Advanced Agronomy Division utilizes the state’s diagnostics laboratory for the toughest questions, sending samples when needed.

Training is yet another avenue, says Hanson. North­west Ag Sup­ply’s four scouts try to attend a training session at least once a year.

Tip No. 3: Have A Plan; Be Dependable

And always keep the communication lines open with your grower-customers, even those that didn’t request early-season scouting. A quick chat may reveal a need for assistance mid-season.

That’s all part of making sure you’re on top of what’s going on, says Armbruster.

“Know what’s going on, know what pests are out there, and don’t miss your opportunities. Spraying can be pretty time sensitive, so you definitely have to have a plan,” he says. “In wheat, for example, when you’re spraying head scab, there’s about a week of prime spraying. If you miss that, you’re out, there’s nothing you can do to protect against head scab.” Such mistakes may cost your grower anticipated yield and your dealership potential future revenue.

Your plans should consider how you’ll complete the work. “If you have a lot of acres to scout, and all of the sudden you’re thinking, ‘boy, I can’t get to it all,’ you’d better be calling in some help or something to get it all done,” adds Armbruster. “We work together with our other branches to make sure we get it all done in a timely manner. We tag team it a lot and say, ‘hey, let’s get this done,’ and plan when and where to be to get it done.”

Tip No. 4: Earn Each Grower’s Trust

You can expect to sell more crop protection products due to recommendations — but be sure it’s for the right reasons. Customers can see through someone who’s just “selling” and someone providing what’s best for them.

Sparkman agrees. “There’s a question in every growers’ mind: ‘Is he making the recommendation because I need that product or is he just trying to sell me that product?’” he says.

Providing quality service and recommendations, obtaining and providing solid, prompt answers to questions, having a season-long plan for each field, and being dependable are all part of earning and maintaining your grower-customers’ trust, something Sparkman feels many retailers do well.

“There’s a lot of good people out there,” Sparkman says. “We’ve always kept the farmer’s best interests in mind at our co-op, and I think most people do that.”

Dan Fantazia, sales manager at Stanislaus Farm Supply, Modesto, CA, agrees. “Our scouts are the ones that have the direct contact with our customers,” says Fantazia. “They represent us out in the field.”

“It doesn’t take long to lose a good reputation,” Spark­man warns. “Don’t think you can’t lose a customer who believes he received poor service. Farmers are pretty good at finding someone else they can trust.”

Leave a Reply

Fungicides Stories

Winter Wheat
FungicidesSyngenta Receives Approval For Fungicide ADEPIDYN In Argentina
November 15, 2016
Syngenta has announced that MIRAVIS Duo, a combination of ADEPIDYN and difenoconazole, has been approved by SENASA (regulatory authority in Read More
Topguard premix fungicide
FungicidesFMC Launches New Topguard EQ Fungicide Premix
November 10, 2016
FMC Corp. announces the launch of a new fungicide premix called Topguard EQ fungicide that provides long-lasting disease control and Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Active Ingredient
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soybean Field
FungicidesSyngenta Launches Interactive Tools For Vibrance Seed Treatment Fungicide
August 30, 2016
As part of the ongoing commitment to provide growers and retailers with the most current crop protection products and agronomic Read More
Trending Articles
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Issues Statement On The U.S. Elections
November 10, 2016
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn has issued the following statement on the results of the 2016 elections: “TFI Read More
Latest News
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research has announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
AGCO AgControl system
Precision AgPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
November 28, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls …
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
FertilizerNutrient Management, Conservation Among Topics Covered …
November 23, 2016
Certified crop advisers, consultants, farmers, agribusiness professionals and students will learn more about nutrient management, soil and water conservation, pest Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsa…
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Arysta LifeScience
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Forms Alliance With Beem Biologics
November 21, 2016
As part of its recently announced strategy to become a leader in high-value, high-growth specialty market segments in the crop Read More
DuPont sign
Crop InputsDuPont To End Pension Contribution For Active Employees
November 18, 2016
DuPont will no longer contribute to active employees’ pension plans, a move that will affect the retirement of 13,000 workers, Read More