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 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Me…
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Equipment10 Tips for Spring Planter Preparation
March 3, 2015
Kinze Manufacturing offers advice on how to ensure your planter is ready before you hit the field. Read More
Industry NewsOABA 2015 LAUNCH Program Recognizes 20 New Graduates
March 3, 2015
Twenty Ohio agribusiness leaders are being recognized as the latest graduates of Ohio AgriBusiness Association’s LAUNCH program. Read More
EquipmentNew AGCO Website Helps Customers Shop For Certified Pre…
March 3, 2015
RoGator sprayers are among the wide range of CPO equipment available through AGCO's site. Read More
Enlist spray Demo
HerbicidesGuiding New Herbicide Systems’ Launches
March 3, 2015
Under careful watch, the new 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops hit more acres this season. Read More
Eric SfiligojCommodity Classic 2015: Playing The Waiting Game
March 2, 2015
There was plenty of future-talk at this year’s event as companies (and growers) are largely in a holding pattern of sorts. Read More
Industry NewsHighway Equipment Appoints New Director Of Business Dev…
March 2, 2015
Cory Venable, who joined Highway Equipment Company (HECO) in 2013 as OEM Account Manager, has been promoted to Director of Business Development. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
Eric SfiligojWorkforce Worries
March 2, 2015
Finding good employees almost always ranks as the No. 1 or No. 2 problem for ag retailers in our annual CropLife 100 survey. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
2,4-D Celebrates 70 Years; GROWMARK Uses Super Bowl Ad To Share Positive Message
Management2,4-D Celebrates 70 Years; GROWMARK Uses Super Bowl Ad …
February 27, 2015
Jim Gray, executive director of the 2,4-D Research Task Force, lays out planned activities to mark the chemistry’s 70th anniversary. Read More
HerbicidesUniversity Of Arkansas Flag The Technology Program Adds…
February 27, 2015
Started in 2010, the Flag the Technology program provides a visual reference for applicators to distinguish between fields planted with different herbicide-tolerant trait technologies. Read More
Luckey Farmers, Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center
Industry NewsLuckey Farmers’ Berkey Branch Certified In 4R Nut…
February 26, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Luckey Farmers Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center in northwest Ohio has been added to its growing list of nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Crop InputsWinField Unveiling NutriVision Technology, Ascend Dry F…
February 24, 2015
New for 2015 are NutriVision Technology, a unique tool for monitoring in-season plant nutrient availability, and Ascend WSG plant growth regulator, a new dry formulation of Ascend plant growth regulator. Read More
FertilizerNew Formulation Of NutriSphere-N Protects High Volume U…
February 24, 2015
Verdesian Life Sciences is launching NutriSphere-N HVTM, a new polymer formulation of the proven NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager that protects high-volume applications of UAN. Read More
EquipmentIowa Ag Secretary Northey Names Hagie Water Quality Lea…
February 24, 2015
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has named Hagie Mfg. as a recipient of the Secretary’s Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Leader Award. Read More
FungicidesEvito Fungicide Gives Canadian Wheat Growers New Diseas…
February 24, 2015
EVITO fungicide from Arysta LifeScience North America gives Canadian wheat and barley growers a new option for disease control. Read More