soybean scouting

Soybean Business: Scouting for Success

This story first appeared in the March-April issue of Soybean Business, A Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Magazine. This article comes from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, which hopes to raise awareness about road right of way rules. Click here to read more articles from Soybean Business.

Football teams spend hours working on a game plan for their upcoming opponent. Coaches take scouting information they’ve received on the opposing team’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies to formulate a plan for success in all phases of the game.

It’s important that soybean farmers show the same tenacity and attention to detail when they’re making plans to manage diseases, weeds or pests.

A decision tool

“Good scouting leads to good decisions,” says Bruce Potter, Integrated Pest Management Specialist at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, Minn.

Many farmers utilize crop scouts to help them gather information about what’s happening in their fields. With all the things on their plate during the growing season, farmers themselves may not have time to thoroughly scout on their own. Enlisting the help of professionals can free up some of that time, plus trained scouts are likely to have additional expertise farmers themselves may not have.

In most cases, scouts will also come with a wider point of view.

“Hiring from outside has advantages because they’re probably scouting a wider geography and different environments that will give them a broader perspective,” Potter says.

For example, knowing soybean aphid numbers may be climbing in a few fields in the area, prompting growers to pay particular attention to their own fields to see how populations are developing. Gathering that information can help lead them to a decision on whether or not they need to take action.

Whether farmers scout themselves or enlist the help of others, the efforts need to be thorough. Scouting has to cover the whole field, It can’t be done through the windshield or by checking the first few rows, you have to get into the field and really look.

Choose wisely

Because scouting plays an important role in decision making, choosing the right person for the task shouldn’t be taken lightly. Potter says farmers need to be able to trust that their scout has proper training and supervision.

But farmers themselves need to be educated to recognize diseases, identify weeds and check for pests.

Hiring a scout doesn’t mean farmers don’t step foot into the field. Farming isn’t a one-size-fits-all enterprise.

Gathering information through scouting is an important way farmers can know exactly what’s happening in their fields.

“Scouting is just a tiny part of the whole process, but it is very useful in putting a crop pest management plan together,” Potter adds. “How and why farmers scout is part of their overall management philosophy.”

This story was brought to you by the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and the soybean checkoff.