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CROP HEALTH

Scouting for Pests and Disease in Crops: An Integrated Pest Management Approach

By Will Scott

Scouting for pests and diseases is the foundation of an integrated pest management program. There is a strategic way to optimize your scouting and pest identification for a greater return on investment. When farmers are dealing with bugs such as spider mites, stink bugs or thirps—questions always arise on how, what and when you should spray.

Scouting is not only important for checking for insects, but also for diseases, weeds, nutrient needs and crop growth. By walking fields and examining crops, you and your Trusted Ag Advisor can come up with an integrated pest and disease management solution.

How frequently should I scout?

Scouting for diseases and pests starts as soon as seed is in the ground and doesn’t end until the grain is in the combine. Scouting frequency is crop and pest dependent. Be aware of what pests and diseases could impact your crop’s growth stage. For example, you don’t want to spend a lot time scouting for plant bugs in seedling cotton because there is no fruit for that pest to consume. Likewise, you may also need to change your scouting method depending on the bug’s growth cycle. Continuing with the cotton example, as the number of adult plant bugs starts to decrease, and the number of nymphs increases, you should change your sampling method from use of a sweep net to a drop cloth.

Scouting patterns should always be well planned. Random samples should be taken throughout your fields and analyzed. When looking for seedling diseases, choose four to five areas and randomly sample 20 plants within each sample area. Utilizing a strategic scouting pattern approach will prevent unnecessary applications of pesticides and avoid misdiagnosis of action or economic thresholds.

What equipment will I need to scout?

Proper scouting equipment is also a necessity when monitoring fields. Some key items to have handy are a sweep net, drop cloth, hand lens, notebook, pest identification guide, and knife or spade. Your equipment will help you correctly identify weeds, insects or disease.

What to look for?

When scouting for leaf diseases, note the crop stage, affected area, and the percentage the affected area represents of the entire planted area. Make sure you turn over leaves and look out for protected, damp areas under the plants. When evaluating for stalk rots, take note of the stalk’s condition and strength. One way to do this is to squeeze the stalk and check for any compromised areas along the stalk. Also assess the surrounding area because root pests can often dwell in the soil. It’s vital that you assess all parts of the plant.

Scouting and identifying pest or disease problems before they get out of control is well worth your time and effort. Contact your Pinnacle representative today to discuss an integrated pest management solution.

Will Scott

As Pinnacle’s Tech Services Manager, Will Scott brings his industry expertise to the organization’s product offerings. Since joining Pinnacle Agriculture in 2012, Will works closely with research and development, proprietary brands and procurement teams to ensure we are delivering the best possible product to our customers.