by Kim Cooper
When I was much younger, I was a member of the Cub and Boy Scout troop at Victoria Avenue United Church. The motto for the Boy Scouts was ‘Be Prepared.’ That is always a good plan in all areas of life, including the agriculture sector.
In Chatham-Kent, our producers grow over 70 different crops. Weeds, insects and diseases can have a devastating effect on any crop and on the producer’s bottom line. That is why our producers walk their fields a number of times during the growing season and check for the presence of any issues in the fields.
This area of weed, insect and disease detection is so specialized, many producers are turning to ‘crop scouts’ to help them detect these issues and make recommendations on how to deal with the problem in their fields. Crop scouts are trained professionals, most having a degree in agriculture and specialized training in crop management practices.
Crop scouting is one tool used as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy that can help farmers make important and timely decisions in their crops. Crop scouts assist farmers who may not have the time to spend inspecting their fields for these crop issues.
Crop scouts are able to examine any of the crops we grow here in Chatham-Kent. A crop scout is also a second pair of eyes for the farmer as a check to ensure they both see the same things in the field. A crop scout provides reassurance and begins a record keeping system of what is going on in the fields, so the farmer can concentrate on other aspects of their business operations.
Scouting also provides timing accuracy for crop spraying. Knowing the weed, insect and disease thresholds is an integral part of the process. A threshold is the level of plant damage or the number of insects at which treatment is recommended – hopefully the point at which the benefits of control will outweigh the costs of control. If spray application is too early, then the chemical application is wasted. If the spray application is too late, crop damage has already occurred.
A crop scout may visit a producer’s field one to two times a week depending on a number of factors. They monitor for insect, disease, and weed pressures, nutrient deficiencies, physiological problems, overall crop health, and take tissue and soil samples. The specialty crop scouting reports are GPS (Global Positioning System) mapped and recorded so when an issue is identified, they can return to the same area a few days later to re-evaluate the problem or return in the fall to take soil samples if needed.
Another set of eyes for scouting agricultural fields is the use of drones, which are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The drone will fly over a field on a pre-determined flight path and then record and transmit high-quality aerial images of the field. This becomes another effective scouting tool in identifying any issues within the farmer’s field.
Our agricultural sector will continue to expand into more specialized and diverse areas. Our farmers need to ‘be prepared.’ Crop scouting will play an even more vital role in the business of agriculture.
Here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agriculture website at www.wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’