Production Blog

Put on Your Scouting Cap

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Record those baby steps as the crops emerge to learn more about how to pamper the crop the following year. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- If big league baseball scouts weren't constantly scrounging for talent, the team wouldn't be budding with potential the following spring. The same kind of forward thinking should be playing out in crop fields all summer, according to the agronomists at Advanced Agrilytics.

"When you think about it, once the seed is going into the ground, farmers are 90% of the way there in terms of variables they can control," said Kent Klingbeil, lead agronomist in Iowa for Advanced Agrilytics. "Sure, you will make management decisions throughout the year to improve results, but you also need to be thinking about next year."

Precision agronomists, like Klingbeil, provide important backup when growers get stretched during hectic seasons. Indianapolis, Indiana-based Advanced Agrilytics works to close the gap between data and on-farm application across eight Midwestern states, according to a news release provided to DTN.

"Planning for 2022 starts at emergence," Klingbeil noted. "Sure, you can wait until the end of the year and try to put the pieces back together. But, ultimately, taking the time to evaluate performance all season long makes a difference in seeing improvements each year, and that starts now."

Documenting planter and seedling performance is best done at emergence. He suggests keeping a scorecard of varieties to include stand counts, planter skips, seedling depth and variable-rate prescriptions in both seed and fertilizer.

Not all that long ago, farmers used to document many of these details in small notepads supplied by seed companies. That handwritten method still works, but there are also handy apps available to record these details -- as well as scouting services farmers can hire to help with the process. Phones make it easy to take pictures to document performance as the season moves forward.

"Documenting what is happening right after emergence will help you connect the dots when it comes to planting adjustments, nutrient plans and seeding choices for 2022," Klingbeil said.

This is also true for side-by-side research trials throughout the season. He recommends that farmers trying new products keep track of what is happening at various stages, whether it be V2, V6 or later in the season. In other words, don't wait for yield results and build the story backward.

If you need a little coaching to hone scouting skills, the 2021 Virtual Crop Scout School is now available and free from the Crop Protection Network. This online scout school offers 22 webinars from crop protection specialists at 11 Midwest universities.

You can pick and choose from a variety of subjects, and topics are split into digestible bits to fit interests and time. Corn and soybeans are the focus, but there are also topics on wheat, alfalfa and precision scouting tools. Find more information on the webinars here:…. The webinars come on the heels of a web book that also offers scouting tips:….

With every kernel and oilseed climbing in value and the costs of inputs doing the same, the concept of integrated pest management becomes critical. Not only does scouting give farmers and agronomists a heads-up on what's happening, but as Klingbeil so accurately points out, you get a head start on next year. And, that's winning.

For more information Advanced Agrilytics:

Read more thoughts from Advanced Agrilytics agronomists in these DTN stories:

The Skinny on 20s:…

Seven Steps to Early Soybean Planting:…

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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