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Chronicles of a crop detective: ScoutingChronicles of a crop detective: Scouting

Are you a farmer or a detective? When it comes to scouting, you’re both.

August 1, 2017

3 Min Read
Alternating contour strips of soybeans and corn protect against erosion and soil depletion on a farm in southern Wisconsin.

As the planting ends, the detective work begins when it comes to the status of the crop in the ground. It comes down to a decision to let it be or start over. Any number of things can cause producers to make the ultimate decision: keep a crop in the field or tear it out. That decision, according to Doebler’s District Sales Manager David Warner, needs to be based on ear and stand counts. It’s a matter of good detective work.

“If you’re out doing a stand count and your stand looks off, it’s time to put your detective hat on and start looking at what caused the problem, what caused the poor stand,” Warner says. “First, was the planter adjusted correctly? And it’s important to remember that it’s not always the seed. Is it insects, or nutrient deficiencies or a fertilizer issue? It’s a matter of finding out the facts.”

Warner says identifying the cause is important because if conditions have not changed, then replanting will simply repeat the problem.

The Right Tools
A good crop detective needs the right set of tools.

“This time of year I carry a shovel and a trowel and go out and dig,” Warner says. “I keep my notes on my smartphone. That can help you answer some questions. Was it too wet? Was there a compaction problem that would cause uneven seed depth? Once you get to that point, you need to look at the population that you have and look at the date, so you can calculate how much loss you might have.”

Warner recommends scouting as much of the field as possible. Utilizing your four-wheeler is the best way to get that done.

“I started using my four-wheeler a few years ago,” Warner says, “and that made me a better agronomist out in the field scouting crops because you can track the rows, you can get down to that back corner.”

Tissue Testing?
Today, our air is cleaner, which means there is less sulfur in the air. As a result, sulfur deficiencies are more prevalent which can serve as a signal to the producer that it is a good time for tissue testing.

“In high phosphorus soils with a high pH you might see some micronutrient deficiencies like manganese, especially in soybeans,” Warner says. “If things don’t look quite right you should do tissue testing.”

“Be vigilant in scouting”
At this point in the season, you are dealing with the hand you are dealt Warner says.

“It’s constant scouting till then. If you get to about V5, most of your initial problems are sorted out. Past V5, you should still be out there every ten days to two weeks. If there are summer storms you might have some green snap or some chemical injury from a post trip till you start getting up towards tassle. After tassle you look for gray leaf, environmental conditions, northern leaf blight. You just have to be vigilant in scouting your crops. Keep a constant eye out.”

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