Agriculture is a continually changing business. And as our producers grow more diverse crops, the pests and diseases that attack these crops also become more challenging. Insects and disease can have a devastating effect on crops and on the producer’s bottom line. This is why our producers walk their fields a number of times during the growing season and check for the presence of insects and diseases.
This area of insect and disease detection is so specialized, many producers are turning to ‘crop scouting’ to help them detect these pests and make recommendations on how to deal with the problem in their crop. Crop scouts are trained professionals, most having a degree in agriculture and specialized training in crop management practices, especially as it relates to insects and diseases.
Crop scouting is one tool used as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy that can help farmers make important and timely decisions in their crops. Crop scouting assists farmers who may not have the time to spend intensively scouring their crops for pest and disease pressures.
Crop scouts will examine any of the crops we grow, which includes: soybeans, corn, wheat, field and greenhouse tomatoes and peppers, onions, carrots, cole crops, apples, peaches, pears, sugar beets, blueberries, cucumbers, grapes, tobacco, squash, pumpkins, eggplant, snap beans, sweet corn, and strawberries.
A crop scout is also skillful as a second pair of eyes for the farmer, almost as a check to ensure they both see the same things in the field. Hiring a scout provides reassurance and also begins a record keeping system of what is going on in their fields, so the farmer can concentrate on other aspects of their business operations.
Scouting also provides timing accuracy for crop spraying. Knowing the insect and disease thresholds is an integral part of the process. A threshold is the level of plant damage or the number of insects at which treatment is recommended – hopefully the point at which the benefits of control will outweigh the costs of control. If spray is applied too early, then the chemical application is wasted. If the spray is applied too late, the crop damage is already done.
A crop scout may visit a producer’s field one to two times a week depending on a number of factors. They monitor for insect, disease, and weed pressures, document nutrient deficiencies, physiological problems, take tissue and soil samples, and assess overall crop health. All of the specialty crop scouting is GPS (Global Positioning System) mapped and recorded so when they identify a problem in the field, they can return to the same area a few days later to evaluate the problem or return in the fall to take soil samples if needed.
Another new set of eyes for scouting agricultural fields is the use of drones, which are unmanned aerial vehicles. The drone will fly over a field on a pre-determined flight path and then record and transmit high-quality aerial images of the field. This becomes another effective scouting tool in identifying any problems within the farmer’s field.
As the agricultural sector continues to expand into more specialization, the need will also grow in other sectors. Crop scouting is an important part of a specialized and growing sector in agriculture today.
Think about this – Trade God your pieces for His peace.
Just some food for thought.
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘WE GROW FOR THE WORLD’.
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 35 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’