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
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