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Have you lost an entire crop to a pest? Too often we don’t know there was a problem until harvest, when it’s too late. Routinely scouting your fields for pest pressure allows you to assess the health of the crop without examining every single plant.
Start by researching the pests you’re likely to encounter and learn what to look for. It may be from experiences with last year’s crop or what’s being found in other fields in your area.
Daren Mueller is an Extension plant pathologist at Iowa State University. He says scouting can be high-tech with aerial imagery or low-tech using a pen and paper to note what you see. Choose a path through the field that allows you to collect a random yet representative sample of what’s out there.
"You can go from corner-to-corner if you have a vehicle on both sides, if you’re tag-teaming. We always say the Z or W or diamond pattern, something that will let you end up back at your car," says Mueller. "But, I would say with Google Earth and being able to take aerial images and looking at those, it’s a combination of random and targeted scouting. You want to hit the spots that look funny."
Go to areas that appear stunted or have color variations. And you’ll need to examine more than just the leaves.
"As far as looking on the plant, we always recommend just don’t look at the easy parts of the plant. Sometimes it’s good to have a shovel and if the plant looks stunted or looks a little off, the problem might be underground," he says. "So, you have to dig up some plants, look at the roots and try to see if there’s issues there."
Developing a scouting routine allows you to determine whether or not pest pressure is increasing, and if or when you need to take action.
Find more tips on crop scouting