Crop Scouting

Crop scouting is the standard examination of fields in a prescribed manner in order to evaluate level and types of biotic and abiotic stress in it capable of affecting crop production. Crop scouting involves walking through a field and stopping at a number of locations to make observations and collect samples. Timely crop scouting is a crucial part of crop management. It gives us an unbiased assessment of pests, weeds, and diseases infestation level, their stage, problems with soil and water, and chemical spray overdose etc. Timely field scouting helps in identifying upcoming problems before they become a major issue and helps farmers to take precautionary steps. When farmers are in doubt about their field it is time to get their field scouted by professionals. Recommendation after crop scouting will help them to select right crop rotation, variety, chemicals, seed treatments, seeding and spray windows etc. for their fields.

Preparation before scouting

Series of steps are needed to perform before heading out on crop scouting. It is important to inform a colleague or supervisor about the location of the field and approximate duration it might take for you to return back from field surveys. Make sure to check weather forecast as extreme wet conditions can cause your vehicle to be stuck in a muddy remote location.

  • Preparing your vehicle: During busy season an agronomist or agriculture research scientists might have to visit multiple distant sites for scouting. Thus proper preparation is needed as it involves driving on tough terrain, remote area, and long distance. It is important to take an off-road capable vehicle on the farmlands and gravel roads. Inspect your vehicle visually for anything wrong and make sure your truck tires (including spare) have right pressure and tread depth. You will need to carry first aid kit, blanket kit, tool sets to change your tires in case of emergency, extra pair of clothes, jackets, rain shoes, rain jacket, mosquito replants etc. in your truck.

  • Clothing: Fields are full of mosquitos, harmful insects and reptiles. Wear only close toe outdoor shoes with high ankles, full sleeve shirts, and pants. Carry your water bottle and cell phone with you if you plan to walk deep in the field

  • Tools and equipment for scouting: You will need to carry following tools and items:

  • Anemometer

  • Soil Thermometer

  • Hygrometer

  • Thermometer (Air Temp)

  • Vials

  • Labels

  • Sweep Net

  • Sieves

  • Measuring Tape

  • Record Sheet

  • Paper Bags

  • Pocket Knife

  • Tweezers

  • Magnification lens

  • Clear Plastic Bags

Steps involved in scouting field/crop

After pre-trip preparation and inspection you need to follow following steps for a successful crop scouting. Depending upon the region or type of crop and your goals you may need to add additional steps or tools.

  1. Identify the field on the scouting report form, using the farmer’s name, field number, location, etc.

  2. Write field history (Crop rotation, chemical used, and other problems in previous years).

  3. Record the date and the time of day.

  4. Measure and mark a fixed area at the point of inspection (generally ¼ m2).

  5. Record the weather conditions (humidity, air temp, wind speed, direction and soil temperature).

  6. Crop density, weed types and their density, plant growth stage, insect types, and diseases are noted.

  7. Record soil type, topography of the field.

  8. Sample the field in the pattern prescribed for the particular pest(s).

  9. If there is a doubt about the correct identification, collect samples of pests and/or their damage for later identification.

  10. Report the results of any scouting procedure.

  11. In more complicated field problems you may also need to collect soil and irrigation water samples for lab tests to identify underlying problems.

You will need to scout multiple sites within a field to increase the accuracy of observations. After developing detailed scouting report a solution can be recommended to solve underlying problems in the field.

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