Crop scouting 101: How to tell when your crops need a boost

  • As you scout your crops, pay attention to these three areas: plant health, disease pressure and soil health.
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As planting begins, or continues, across various regions in North America, we should all be preparing to do the one thing that can have a significant impact on making or breaking our crops: scouting. Crop scouting is important for numerous reasons, but most importantly, it gives insight on the next steps you need to take to ensure you get the most out of your crops.

 

Three ways to tell if your crops need a boost:

 

1. Plant health

Overall plant health can be difficult to identify. The main indicators to look for include plant growth uniformity, patches of discoloration across the field and any signs of lodging. If observed, the crop may not be as healthy as it needs to be to thrive.
 
Soil and plant testing can identify nutrient deficiencies and other causes of decreased plant health.
 

2. Disease pressure

There are two key indicators of the level of disease pressure you may be dealing with: the crop’s leaves and the roots.
 
If the leaves are discolored and the bottom ones are beginning to wilt, you may need to speak to your agronomist about what your crop needs to get back on the path to high yields and overall crop quality.
 
After digging up a plant, examine the roots and look for consistent color. Also, if you have been experiencing wet weather conditions, the roots may give off a foul odor. Root rot can be caused by fungi attacking the root system, poor drainage, lack of oxygen to the root system, and phytotoxicity.  Treatment will depend on the cause, ranging from the use of fungicides to aeration, but if left untreated, root rot will eventually kill the plant. 
 
Increasing nutrient availability to the plants and improving plant health can  improve their ability to resist disease pressure.  Healthy plants are more likely to reach their full genetic potential of productivity.

 

3. Soil health

Your soil is a great storyteller. If it begins to get too dry, it will begin to crack. If it gets too wet, it turns to muck.
 
When you are out scouting your crops, remember to check your soil. If it is showing the indicators mentioned above, or if it lacks soil structure when you pick it up, you may want to give your agronomist a call.
 
If your crop scouting brings to light any of the issues listed above, ask your local trusted agronomist to thoroughly scout your field. By catching problems early, you may be able to get your crop back on the right track to achieve its full potential.