Iowa State Extension’s Field Crop Scout School

Rasel Parvej works with students at Iowa State Extension’s Field Crop Scout School March 30 in Boone. He helped lead a workshop on soybean growth and development at the day-long school. 

In preparation for the 2019 growing season, more than 70 aspiring crop scouts went to class on a Saturday.

Iowa State Extension held its Field Crop Scout School on March 30 in Boone. Workshops were geared toward teaching what to look for when analyzing a field.

“The main goal of the program is to cover the basics of crop scouting,” said Warren Pierson, the event’s coordinator. “What to take with you when you go, things to look for and safety concerns.”

Virgil Schmitt, an Extension field agronomist, said some of the major diseases to watch for this year are tar spot, northern corn leaf blight and gray leaf spot. Another hot topic was identifying insects and pests, including the soybean gall midge.

“It’s a fairly new insect that is mostly a western Iowa problem at this point,” Schmitt said.

“It’s something we first identified what it really is this year. … That’s one of the new things we are watching fairly closely. We are asking our scouts and people that work at the school that if they run into any tar spot or gall midge to be sure that they let us know. We need to keep track with what’s going on with those two.”

They also showed attendees how to identify potential herbicide resistance before making weed management decisions.

“They had the live weeds there to look at,” Schmitt said. “There were live soybeans there and live corn plants that people could look at for various grow stages because a lot of the herbicides are limited by when they can go on. The scout needs to be able to report accurately what the growth stage is of the weed and the crop.”

Many of the attending students were college or high school age, preparing for a future internship or job with a chemical dealer or an independent crop consultant, Pierson said.

Schmitt said that the job many of the future interns will do is being the “eyes and ears” for these companies while working with customers. Their primary role is to determine what areas of a field need help.

There were also about 10 to 15 adults who took part in the class, including farmers and cooperative workers.

“They come to sharpen up their own skills,” Schmitt said. “I know a couple people that were there said with the economy the way it is, they are trying to cut back on cost and want to spend their own time rather than spending dollars on scouting.”

After attending the school, Pierson said the best thing people can do is continue learning and make sure they are doing things correctly. He said it’s important to always ask questions.

“One of the major things that we encouraged people to do was be willing to look for help,” he said. “There’s a lot of other resources out there. If you aren’t sure of something, snap a picture, grab a sample and take it to someone who might know (what it is).”