The Fieldman’s Files – Crop Scouting

Normand Boulet, CCA
Agricultural Fieldman
M.D. of Smoky River No. 130

Seeding is done (hopefully, by the time you read this), let the crop scouting begin.

Crop scouting is a vital part of growing any type of agricultural produce. Knowing what insects, diseases, weeds etc. are out there (or what there isn’t) is necessary to make proper crop protection decisions, as well of course decisions regarding hay and pasture.

Has the pasture regrown to the point I can turn my livestock back in to graze? Has the wet spring allowed poisonous plants like Water hemlock to grow – and could they be an issue for my livestock?

For crop producers there are many insects like flea beetles, cutworms, lygus bugs, wheat midge, pea leaf weevils that need to be checked for, properly identified and decisions made for whether control is warranted or not.

Crop scouting needs to be done properly, at the right time for the crop, time of day, in the right conditions and it needs to be more than one spot in the field in most cases. Deciding to spray insecticide on a 300 acre field based on one sampling is not appropriate as insect populations may only be at Economic Threshold levels in one spot, so it’s a waste of money and a very poor environmental practice.

The presence of a pest does not automatically mean control is needed. In the first photo (above) you see 3 striped flea beetles on one of my canola seedlings, they are present, but based on Economic Thresholds set as 25 per cent damage, the ET has not been met for spraying. In the second picture a seedling has no insects on it, but damage is over 25 per cent.

If the majority of my canola seedlings looked like the one in the second photo, I would probably have sprayed already.

In the case of flea beetles, the insect has to bite into the leaf to get the seed treatment and either die or be dissuaded from feeding. However when populations are high enough if they all take a few bites, the canola can be overcome, Economic Thresholds can be reached and control may be justified.

There is no way to cover all the possible pests, scouting techniques and ET’s in an article, the various crop commission websites give excellent crop specific information, and for a broad view crop by crop you can check out the Alberta Agriculture website, follow the links from Agriculture, Diseases/Insects/Pests and Crop Insects or Weeds.

Of course there are also many resources locally including at your retailer, and independent scouts available for hire.

Ensuring controls are only implemented when economic thresholds are reached saves you money, and it also ensures the beneficial insects in your fields that are actively trying to keep those pest populations in check are allowed to do so.

This last shot (below) hopefully sends that message home.

It’s a tan jumping spider and I’m pretty sure it had caught and was eating a mosquito (and man could it get it’s fill that night).

I took the photo one night while I was getting my field sprayer ready. I thought it was particularly apropos as a reminder, like it was telling me, “don’t use this thing unless you have to, I’m here, let me help.”

As always, if you have questions or concerns about this article, or well pretty much anything agricultural contact me at (780) 837-2221 ext. 115 or on my cell at (780) 837-0043, or send an email to asb@mdsmoky Alternatively, follow me on Twitter, @MDfieldman.

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