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

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
Frog eye leaf spot on soybean
FungicidesMake The Case For Fungicides In 2014
February 3, 2014
New products are looking good, but will growers bite with lower crop prices? Read More
FungicidesMANA Introduces Custodia Premix Fungicide For Row Crops
January 14, 2014
New fungicide for corn, soybeans, and wheat contains the two most complementary systemic active ingredients available today in an optimized ratio to deliver both preventive and curative disease control. Read More

Trending Articles

EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More
EquipmentGPS: 25 Years And Still Growing
June 2, 2014
The evolution of global positioning systems applications in agriculture remains ongoing as the technology hits a notable milestone. Read More
CropLife 10013 Key Acquisitions Pinnacle Has Made In The First Half Of 2014
May 29, 2014
The only thing that has reached a more frenzied pace than #plant14 might be the multiple acquisitions that Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has made in the first half of the year. Read More

Latest News

EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
July 17, 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
A finished Willmar 16-ton side-shooting tender.
TendersNew Production Facility Helps Willmar
July 17, 2014
In 1963, a group of businessmen started Willmar. Today, a half-century later, the company is one of the ag industry’s longest-running brands. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Sells Carbon Credits To Chevrolet, Donate…
July 17, 2014
CF Industries has completed the sale of a large block of carbon reduction credits to Chevrolet, and will donate the net proceeds of $600,000 to the National FFA Foundation. Read More
CropLife 100Grainland Cooperative, Minier Cooperative Grain To Merg…
July 17, 2014
The shareholders of Grainland Cooperative and Minier Cooperative Grain Co. approved a merger of company operations effective August 1, 2014. Read More
ManagementStudy: Drought Costing California Billions
July 17, 2014
A new study has found the drought has cost the state $2.2 billion, primarily in lost farm revenue and wages. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Resumes Production At Oklahoma Nitrogen C…
July 17, 2014
The company had shut down production at the Woodward, OK, facility in April to address an issue in one of the site’s boilers. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis To Relocate Agribusiness Division To Denve…
July 16, 2014
The move Eastward will allow Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness Division to be more accessible to relevant geographies and is expected to enhance communication and collaboration among the division’s nearly 3,000 employees. Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesValent Launches New Seed Protection Fungicide For Soybe…
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
Crop InputsSyngenta Drive To Thrive 10 Finalists Announced
July 15, 2014
Finalists are chosen based on the quality of their essays and photos depicting what makes them thrive. Read More
FertilizerHow To Minimize Phosphorus Losses In Runoff
July 15, 2014
Phosphorus losses from agricultural fields can be divided into three categories: flash losses of soluble phosphorus, slow leak losses and erosion events. Here's how to minimize losses in each instance. Read More
ManagementCalifornia Drought Threatens To Dry Up Farm Wells
July 15, 2014
Farmers hit hardest by California's drought could begin to see wells run dry next year, according to a new study by The Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Read More
Precision AgPoll: Do you plan to attend this year’s InfoAg Co…
July 14, 2014
This year’s InfoAg Conference is just two weeks away. The premier event in precision agriculture takes place July 29-31 at Read More
LegislationFarm Bill Implementation Continues
July 14, 2014
The bill provides $28 billion over the next five years for conservation on private lands while streamlining several old programs and creating new ones like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Continues Expansion Of Atmore Facility
July 14, 2014
The company has improved its molten sulphur unloading system to help meet increased sulphur demand at Tiger-Sul’s Atmore, AL, facility. Read More