Robust Crop Scouting Requires Advanced Data Collection

Disclaimer: I have never been a crop scout.


My intolerance for insects insinuating themselves in places that are competing for the sweat rolling down the back and pant legs would not allow for that career path. But my respect for those who do is irrefutable.

In the past few years of assisting companies to transition from their historically paper-based scouting methods to digitally mapped data, I have learned a great deal about the tools that are needed to make this happen successfully. The first lesson I have learned from the 20 (and counting) company setups that I have done recently is that there are 20 (and counting) scouting methodologies. Every company has their preferred output, their own scouting priorities, their favorite picklists, and their own unique order of workflow.

There are a ton of apps available for crop scouting for phone or tablet that allow for a pin drop with a popup window for data entry and inserting photos of pests and problems. Some link to weed, pest, or disease picture databases to help identify and diagnose. As the ag chem companies reach out with their version of these point-and-click solutions, the added enhancement of product selection to record or recommend treatments is becoming common. These apps seem designed for easy adoption for the grower. But I see much more scouting performed by consultants and industry service providers and they need more professional solutions.

All data collection methods benefit from the collaborative approach. Having a shared platform for scouting is key. Especially so because it is not uncommon for the herds of summer hires — those eager future agronomists getting their feet wet with the summer scouting job placement — to require agronomic supervision by the more seasoned veterans. A well-worn scenario involves the fledgling scouts in the field diligently recording conditions and locations, validating or questioning with photos and copious notes for the veterans to vet at the end of the day or before sending that crucial report to the grower with the observations and advice.

With this workflow in mind, the current status of field apps that allow scouts to scout and advisors to advise; what’s not to love? And in truth lots of scouting services will be perfectly served with any of the brands of tools out there.

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