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Crop Scouting with Western New York Crop Management Association

The corn scouting season is in full swing here in WNY. This summer I’m working for Western New York Crop Management Association. The organization offers crop scouting, nutrient management, and CAFO (confined animal feedlot operations) planning as well as other services.  I’ve been assigned crop scouting responsibilities on 12 farms in the southern tier of western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. My boss at WNY CMA is Nick Youngers. Nick is a Certified Crop Advisor and manages over 12000 acres of field crops. He also supervises a technician and another scout besides me; he is a very busy guy.

My new wheels for the first half of the summer!

In the last couple weeks I’ve scouted corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass-legume hay fields. I enjoy working with field crops and I’ve gotten plenty of opportunities to spend time in many local farmers’ fields. In the field I stage crops, take populations, and evaluate the weed, insect, and disease pressure. The early season corn scouting is the most intense and time consuming scouting we do. Corn is very susceptible to the various pests, especially when it’s young, so we put in the hours during this time of year.  We have all worked 70+ hours, six days a week since mid-May. The scouting thus far has really sharpened my weed seedling identification skills. I’ve found plenty of all “the usual suspects” such as lambsquarter’s, pigweed, ragweed, quackgrass and annual grass weeds.  We have also seen plenty of armyworm infestations in grass hay fields and corn. The little fellas defoliate the corn and often just leave a whorl of leaves. Many fields had cutworm infestations and these insects “cut down” the corn seedlings. These stand out because the cut down corn plants take on a bluish wilted appearance.

Corn plant damaged by cutworm

For all of these pests we use a variety of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts, but for the scout the primary concern is if the pest is above or below threshold. The weeds, and insects, and disease pests have differing ways which we evaluate if they are above or below threshold. Though we try to promote farmers to use IPM to save money, reduce resistance, and reduce potential environmental issues, some farmers view their reports and treat their infested fields immediately, regardless of pest density. After a field has been treated, I return to the fields after the reentry period has been met to verify the pests have been controlled.
The scouting process is repetitive, but this repetition has given me the opportunity to really get good at identifying common pests and has also given me time to build rapport with the farmers and find out what their common pests are on their particular place. All of the farmers I work with have been very friendly and supportive during this learning process that is the early season scouting.  As the growing season progresses, I look forward to doing different tasks in the various crops and learning as much as I can. It’s hard to believe that June is nearly over already, summer and the growing season are flying by!

Wild mustard in corn


  1. Jenn Elliott says:

    Great article Derek.

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