As the planting season nears, agronomists and their growers should prepare and plan for resources for crop scouting – a vital stage in farm management for identifying pest and disease threats and giving plenty of time to make immediate treatment decisions or adjust your plans accordingly.
Advances in data software and platforms in recent years have transformed the scouting process, allowing easier access to historical data from previous years, more effective agronomy tools, and standardized real-time information across a whole team of users. Scott Cogdill, Director of Agronomy Solutions for Proagrica, shares his tips for smart data use when scouting this season.
Know your history
“You’ll want to access any past data from a previous season to start with,” says Scott. “Check past scouting data for past issues, past product applications as well as current season hybrids and target planting rates. Having all data available at this early stage can be crucial to identifying early issues.”
Scott identifies lack of access to past knowledge as the single biggest pitfall affecting scouting. By starting each year anew, and not examining past histories of the field, agronomists are at risk of overlooking important information that could give crucial understanding for any issues on the field.
“Understand your history,” says Scott. “Have a definite understanding of the problems that have impacted the farm in the past. This will give insight as to what you need to accomplish or investigate, so you can effectively cover acres and create an efficient scouting plan.”
Don’t restrict yourself
When scouting, make full use of the wide variety of tools available to give the most comprehensive overview of the field. Imagery, recommendation sharing, field records, soil type data and fertility data all offer key insights into crop performance.
“Tech solutions mean we can bring together those multiple strands of data,” says Scott. “A platform that has data available at all times means you can follow up with issues with far more efficiency than if relying on paper or multiple bits of software.
“Critically, the tools and data can then be easily shared to more people. If you have or are part of a team that are scouting, it’s possible to share the exact same data across the key stakeholders of that field in a seamless digital fashion. This makes your data more valuable and unified, allowing a business to retain its own insights and keep agronomists and key stakeholders informed in a way that older systems simply can’t match.”
Work smarter, not harder
“This is not just about individual solutions, but a joined-up network,” says Scott. “The tools aren’t worth their full value unless they can deliver repeatable benefits to the end user.”
Despite the efficiency gained by using software over a paper copy, Scott stresses that just because a solution is electronic, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s efficient: “Many in the industry are essentially making those same notes, just on a screen – with no standardization or value-adding benefits. This does not allow for further usage of the data in analytics platforms for example.”
At every stage in the scouting process, we should be asking ourselves if we can cost effectively change the outcome based on information available to us. Scouting, by definition, can reveal surprise problems or unforeseen complications. Using the data available at a field level, agronomists can help the grower understand what the best options are for a field and if any action at the time should be considered.
“What does accurate field data mean for scouting? It means we have all info available to make an informed decision on what we are seeing at that time. It’s about utilizing the tools and data available for the best possible outcome.”
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