Scouting 2014: New Season, New Concerns

Following a downright brutal winter that in many parts has soil temperatures laid low and the overall condition of the soil in question, this spring could throw a curveball by even the well-seasoned agronomist when it comes to early season field scouting.

“We’ve got good soil conditions coming in (to the season), but we had an open winter with some fairly deep frost levels so there’s going to be frost that is slow to come to the surface and it could hold some early planting down,” says Brad Ruden, director of agronomy services, South Dakota Wheat Growers (SDWG). “We all know that cold, wet soils tend to favor early season disease, but there’s also planting issues to consider – you’ve especially got to watch soil compaction with the larger equipment we’re using today.”

Scott Ahrenholtz, East region agronomy sales director, West Central Coop., Ralston, IA, has concerns of his own in his territory. “Corn rootworm is going to be a big one for us to monitor, especially with all of our corn-on-corn acres,” he says. “Soybean cyst nematode is another one, and aggressive testing is really important there. Disease-wise, we’re always looking for Goss’s Wilt disease in our corn-on-corn.”

As the season progresses, Ruden will keep his eyes open and his ears to the ground, hoping to get information from further east that tends to foreshadow what his network of 50 SDWG agronomists will be dealing with come planting time.

“We get a little bit of a heads up from watching what happens out in the Corn Belt,” he says. “Resistant corn rootworm is just hitting the Dakotas — I’d say it’s an emerging pest for us and something we’ll watch out for as our crops shift to more corn acres.”

Ruden says that although insect pressures typically remain low in his territory, herbicide-resistant weeds will factor quite prominently into the equation for his growers and scouts. “We’ve got four glyphosate-resistant weeds in South Dakota now and resistant kochia is becoming a major concern. It (kochia) starts to germinate early, as opposed to waterhemp (which doesn’t emerge until later in the season), so early season is a key time for our scouts to look for kochia.”

Mobile Technologies

For most scouts iPads are quickly becoming standard operating equipment and, come 2015, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) will likely become another tool in the retail agronomist’s repertoire, but ground-based scouting is still the prevailing option.

“We’ve adopted iPad technology for all of our scouts, and one of the apps we’ve demoed is ScoutPro, which ties in nicely with Integrated Pest Management thru Iowa State,” says Ahrenholtz. “Whereas in the past our scouts generated a paper trail, now everything is scouted and identified electronically.”

According to Ahrenholtz, ScoutPro allows for a more precise scouting process. “The unique thing (with ScoutPro) is it helps us micro manage the field and find where our heavier disease and insect pressures are.”

A West Central Coop agronomist shows off the company's UAV.
A West Central Coop agronomist shows off the company’s UAV.

Like West Central, at SDWG all sales agronomists are issued an iPad right off the bat. “The iPads tie into our field maps and it’s just a really nice piece of technology to have out in the field with you,” says Ruden.

SDWG utilizes the soil mapping program MZB on its iPads, according to Ruden. “Rather than traditional grid sampling, MZB is management zone based, so we can drill down further and break a field into management zones for making variable rate fertilizer and planting decisions.”

Ahrenholtz confirmed his outfit’s purchase of a DMZ Aerial AIMQ Series quadcopter UAS for experimentation and research heading into 2015, when FAA is expected to sign off on the commercial use of UAVs. “UAVs are going to be an excellent tool to gain a better scouting perspective over a field, it’s more efficient than having scouts out walking fields,” he says. “However, we are well-aware and currently complying with all state and federal regulations surrounding small UAVS.”

After a couple years of tinkering, West Central has unearthed a couple challenges with the technology. “Wind has been a huge issue for us. The quadcopter is pretty small and it can really get blown around in high winds, making for some less-than-ideal images,” he says. “We’re also looking at trying to figure out the most efficient way to fly a field and get the images our agronomists need.”

“The thing about this year is, we know prices aren’t where growers would like them to be,” concludes SDWG’s Ruden. “Now is the opportunity for us to really focus on agronomics. That’s going to be absolutely critical because tight management and being sure we’re putting the right input on the right acre is going to be crucial in keeping profit margins where our growers want them to be. As margins get tighter, it’s going to take more management, and working with a trained, trusted agronomist can really pay off for the grower.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Scouting 2014: New Season, New Concerns

Management Stories
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
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
Latest News
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More
Eric SfiligojIARC Targets 2,4-D In Latest Report
June 29, 2015
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has struck again. Earlier this year in March, this agency of the Read More
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Ma…
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
EquipmentCase IH Launches New Precision Air 5 Series Carts
June 29, 2015
Case IH recently introduced its new Precision Air 5 series air carts, developed to get the most from every plant’s Read More
InsecticidesVestaron Biopesticide Approved In California
June 29, 2015
Vestaron Corporation, a developer of insect control products derived from naturally occurring peptides, today announced that its VST-006330-EP biopesticide has received Read More
InsecticidesValent’s Zeal SC Miticide Receives EPA Approval
June 29, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation announced today that Zeal SC Miticide has been registered by EPA with a new liquid formulation that Read More
Retail FacilitiesUnited Prairie Increased Plant Productivity With Junge …
June 29, 2015
Since 1979, Junge Control continues to provide ag retailers with highly accurate fluid and dry ingredient measuring, mixing and tracking Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
ManagementAsmark Training Center Visit & A Merger No Go
June 25, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj talks about a visit to the Ford B. West Training Center and the failure of the Read More
Crop InputsWinField: Here’s What We’re Seeing So Far T…
June 25, 2015
One of the most important things you can do throughout the season to help increase yield potential is to ensure Read More
Valent, Commodity Classic 2015
Industry NewsValent Garners FFA Honor
June 23, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation today announced it has been named a 5-star member of the National FFA Foundation. This includes an Read More
Nester Ag intern Brad Nester
Crop InputsOhio NRCS’ New Conservation Practice Standard For Gypsu…
June 22, 2015
Ohio farmers wishing to use gypsum to improve soil quality now have access to technical information and possible financial assistance Read More
Industry NewsWest Central Creates New Executive Team
June 22, 2015
West Central Distribution, LLC officially announced the development of an executive team comprised of Dale Engan, chief executive officer; Michael Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Life Sciences Invests In People, Agricultural…
June 22, 2015
In mid-February, the USDA released its new 10-year agriculture projections. While the numbers are new, the theme was consistent. The Read More
Young corn plants
Crop InputsStudy: Crop Rotation Has Positive Impact On Soil Microb…
June 22, 2015
A study authored by Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences assistant professor Lisa Tiemann is Read More
Crop InputsIndiana NRCS Unveils Interim Gypsum Practice Standard
June 22, 2015
Indiana farmers wishing to use gypsum to improve soil quality as part of on-farm conservation programs now have access to Read More
ManagementInside Monsanto’s Bid for Syngenta
June 18, 2015
Monsanto’s possible buyout of Syngenta could send ripples through the retail chain. Learn the latest developments with Retail Week guest Read More