Crop scouting, also known as field scouting, is the very basic action of traveling through a crop field while making frequent stops for observations. Crop scouting is done so that a farmer can see how different areas of his or her field are growing. If there are problems during the growing season, the farmer can work to mitigate them so those problems do not affect yield at harvest time. Should problems go unnoticed or uncared for during the growing season, they can potentially limit the total yield, thus reducing the revenue from the sale of the crop or other intentions for the crop, such as livestock feed.
There are many different methods of crop scouting. While the traditional methods can include walking through the field and observing plants manually, particular pieces of equipment are still used, including field notes so the farmer can keep account of plants and areas that need more attention, a pocket knife and bags for sample taking, and finally a hand magnification lens so the farmer can get a close look and better idea of the health of his or her plants.
Crop and field scouting are crucial for each stage of the crop lifespan. Pre-seeding field scouting can show a farmer weed populations, including what weeds are growing and what growth stage the weeds are in. When it’s time to seed, field scouting can show the farmer information to lead them to choose what seed depth or seed rate they should plant at, as well as early indicators of seed treatments or selection. After the seeding is completed, frequent scouting will help to show farmers damaged seeds, early signs of pests, and many other factors. When crops begin to germinate and become established and rooted, continued scouting can help to prevent weed damage, pest damage, and post-spray pesticide or fertilizer performance. It is important to keep scouting on regular intervals through the plant’s life, as this scouting could reveal pest issues, soil moisture issues, and a variety of other risk that could be fought against. Crop Scouting tells farmers a huge amount about their plants, and can help them to improve yield, and maximize crop efficiency.
As precision agriculture technologies have advanced, farmers have been helped greatly when it comes to crop scouting. For example, instead of field notebooks, there are several different mobile apps that are compatible with different types of mobile devices, including tablet computers and smartphones that help farmers keep accurate logs of their fields, while also giving them the opportunity to cross compare these notes with previous years or different areas of the fields. Also with the advancement of global positioning systems (GPS) and unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs), farmers don’t even need to walk through their fields. These new technologies can help to show farmers information that humans cannot see with the naked eye, as well as accurately pin-point where target areas are to provide assistance.
Global positioning systems are an extremely useful tool when it comes to the advancement of crop scouting in precision agriculture. Crop scouting has always relied on farmers remembering where they have scouted and taking note of that, although with the use of GPS, farmers now have an accurate recording of up to one foot of where they have been. With this precise location data they can make notes and have specific locations of where pests, poor soil temperature or moisture are located. With the preciseness of global positioning systems farmers can also accurately mitigate threats that they find in their fields.
GPS has now been incorporated into many different pieces of technology which help farmers to scout their fields much more efficiently and accurately. An example of these technologies includes different apps that are available for tablets orsmartphones. These apps help farmers to not only mark their exact location in a field, but also make field notes, compare notes from previous years and more. These apps can help to show a farmer where exactly on an aerial photo of their farm target areas of issue are, as well as helping farmers to make future decisions based on past crop issues they have had.
UAV's are one piece of technology that have been developed and perfected for agricultural purposes in the past 10 years. UAV's also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, are constantly being perfected and developed to be more efficient, easy to use, and effective. Two main models of UAV's used in agriculture are the fixed wing platform, which is very similar to a plane, although it is scaled down and controlled with a remote control or GPS. The second model is the multi-copter - this model is similar to a helicopter although it generally has more propellers - some multi-copters have anywhere between 4 – 8 propellers. The more propellers that are added to a multi-copter typically provide more stability and power to the machine, this makes it easier to fly and maneuver in different weather conditions. Typically multi-copters are preferred on smaller farms where landing space is limited, while planes are usually better suited for extremely large farms.
UAV's have assisted the agricultural sector by combining their technology with that of infrared cameras. These two pieces of technology combined mean that a farmer can get a bird’s eye view of his or her farm and see their crops from a whole new perspective. UAV's are also capable to use these infrared cameras to render a variety of different information, including: what species are in their fields (weed and crop scouting), moisture levels of the soil or plants, plant development stages, plant health, and much more. These UAV's give farmers a more holistic view of what is happening in their fields and with the use of these UAV's, farmers are able to better understand their crops not just on a field by field basis, but on a plant by plant basis. This is because some UAV's are carry cameras capable of showing one pixel as one foot of land, this means that the farmer can see each foot of land on their field and understand a wide range of information about that particular piece of field. UAV's are helping farmers to undertake more accurate farming practices and with this precision comes better yield.