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Scouting Season in Retrospect

The first two weeks of my internship at Agricultural Consulting Services in Ithaca started off slow; we spent a lot of time training and getting ready for “scouting season” as they called it. I printed off hundreds of field maps for dozens of farms and organized them in manila folders in my big Rubbermaid map box. When I wasn’t printing maps I was at a training session on weed identification or Phosphorous indexing or countless other things, all in the anticipation for this dreaded “scouting season” everyone kept talking about. Then it hit, corn was popping out of the ground and “scouting season” had begun. My 40-hour weeks turned to 60-hour weeks and it’s been that way for the past month and a half.


Photo of army worm on left and black cutworm on right.

Two of the biggest pests we looked for while scouting young corn were black cutworms and armyworms. Both were more prevalent in fields where a cover crop had been throughout the winter months. The adult moths lay their eggs in the standing cover crop and when it is plowed into the soil, the eggs hatch and then you have their larvae, the worms, present in the soil. The cutworms, like their name implies, literally chew (cut) right through the stem of the corn plant and then feed on the seed in the soil below. The armyworm does more vegetative damage while the plant is standing. When these pests were found, an analysis of the damage was done based on the percentage of plants injured and then a mode of action was taken, generally spraying.

Weeds were also on our radar when scouting in hopes to control them early to give the young corn the advantage from the VE to around V4 stages. Due to a lot of our farms planting non-gmo (not Round-up Ready) corn, weed identification was crucial, especially within the grasses, because Round-up couldn’t be used. For example, mistaking nutsedge as a grass and recommending a herbicide to control that grass wouldn’t kill the nutsedge, essentially wasting the farmers money.

Once the corn reached around the V4 stage we began to shift from weeds into more of a pest based scouting and focusing more on alfalfa and the potato leaf-hopper which started a whole new phase of our scouting season.

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