The Life of a Crop Scout

“Scouting fields for weeds, disease and pests is one of the best investments you can make during the growing season to protect crop yield potential.” – Missy Bauer, Farm Journal associate field agronomist.

For those of you that don’t know what a crop scout does, they monitor corn and soybean crops to ensure that the field doesn’t have any weeds, insects, or disease pressure.

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Picture from Dreamstime.com

In the beginning of the year after planting has happened I will receive my field assignments which typically ends up being 10-15 different fields per day. Throughout the day I will travel to these fields and I will do stand counts, this means I will count how many plants within a 17.5 ft. row and figure out an estimate of what the population will be. After doing the counts I input my data into the iPad so the growers can see an idea of what they will be working with. Also while doing my stand counts I will be looking out for different weed species that may be present. Once the crop has begun to emerge we will scout for a pest known as the Black Cutworm. We have to keep a watchful eye out for this insect because they will lay their eggs in the foliage (leaves) of the crop and once they hatch the larvae will feed on them. This isn’t a huge problem in the beginning but if the problem isn’t spotted and taken care of, they will travel to the bottom of the plant and feed on the stems of the seedlings which causes them to wilt and die. If I spot a cutworm issue in a field I will report the issue to my supervisor so that he can let the farmer know, who will then spray the field accordingly.

Towards the middle of the season is when a crop scout is busiest, this is when the crop is roughly waist high and I will be primarily going to fields to look for insects, weeds, and diseases, pretty much anything that could harm the plants. In northern Illinois I

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Northern corn rootworm (picture from Iowa State)

am mostly scouting for rootworm beetles, earworms, Japanese beetles, armyworms, and European corn borer. These insects are the most common and will cause the most damage to a farmer’s crop. I am also looking for weeds such as waterhemp, common lambsquarters, ragweed, marestail, velvet leaf, and morning glory. These weeds will invade a crop and take away nutrients and water that are essential for proper growth. The main diseases that I am scouting for at this time are northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, common rust, anthracnose, and gosses wilt. When looking for diseases you have to make sure they are spotted before they reach above the ear leaf because that is when substantial yield loss is likely to occur.

At the end of the growing season towards harvest is when I will be doing yield counts. This is when I will grab 5 corn ears from each corner of the field and count the number of kernels length wise and width wise. This will give the farmer a good estimate of how his crop did throughout the growing season. Once this is done we will bag the ears of corn and take them to the correct plant for further inspection. During this time of the season I am pretty much finished looking for pests in the field and am focusing on yield and harvest.

I thoroughly enjoy being a crop scout because it is a way for me to be hands on involved in the growing process instead of being stuck in an office all day. I believe that it is a great learning experience for anyone who wants to go into the agriculture field and it has prepared me well for the Ag work force.

My name is Dylan Eisenberg and for the last 4 summers I have interned as a crop scout with various companies in Illinois. I am from Amboy, Illinois, a small town upstate. I am a senior this year at Western Illinois University majoring in agricultural science. I decided to transfer into the ag program after working a few summers with Pioneer. After graduation I plan to continue to work in the industry as a crop supervisor.

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2 thoughts on “The Life of a Crop Scout

  1. ajs160

    I really enjoyed this post. I have an internship with FS in Louistown this summer and I will be crop scouting. Post gave me a better idea on what I will be doing this summer. I hope you can continue on, and become a supervisor.

    Like

  2. mlammersfeld

    I have taken a few classes where I learned about crops, but I have taken almost all of the animal sciences courses at WIU. It is interesting to learn more about crops and I enjoyed reading this article. I have heard of crop scouts before, but I did not know what they really did.

    Like

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