The Best Times to Use Scouting Observations

You spend many hours with boots on the ground scouting, but customers pay you to use your experience and expertise to turn those observations into useful information and relevant recommendations. After expending all of this effort, make sure you get the most value from your observations.

For most agronomists, scouting observations are only being used for the weekly report and recommendation, and then maybe revisited once or twice later in the year. Tools to efficiently organize, filter, and learn from observations across seasons just have not been available. We intend to change that.

To obtain the maximum value from your scouting observations, remember that your data is relevant to decisions you are making far beyond your current field visit and this week's recommendation.

Below we discuss ideas on how your scouting observations can be used at the end of the season, and across years and fields. We would love to hear your examples of the right times(s) to use scouting observations, and the obstacles you confront then trying to use your data after the season.

Understand your Fields' Performance After the Crop Season: 

When you are preparing to review the season with your customer, your observations combined with planting details, harvest information, and weather data can help you understand the drivers of field outcomes. You can see which set of circumstances led to the most profitable fields this year, and the context in which successful crops were most likely to grow.

You can also ask questions of your data that could include:

  • Were pest issues a driver for yield loss?
  • Which herbicide plans worked best this year?
  • Why did this group of fields underperform? 

Your understanding of the drivers of field performance can be captured in visualizations and condensed reports that evidence for next year’s crop plans and generally, more efficient communication with your growers.

Learn from Observations Across Multiple Years and Fields:

While it might not be obvious, you have the best data for useful analytics, and you have enough of it. Each field becomes a real-world trial plot that is in YOUR region, with data from an actual production environment.

You have local data on which varieties, recommendations, and crop management practices were successful in various weather patterns and soils. Your data can help you identify situations that resulted in the worst outcomes and match crop management practices to the individual fields to help ensure successful outcomes. However, these answers are often hidden without tools to organize and analyze the data.

Note that your insights may or may not match up with your expectations, and they won't always match the trial plot results from universities and input providers. There is then an opportunity to learn about why your data showed different insights: Were the conditions from small plot trials irrelevant for this year's weather patterns? or Is there something specific about your fields that responds differently to products that were tested?

With deeper insights gleaned from your data across years, you will be able to better understand the impacts of various crop practices on your fields. You can then use these insights to learn from your own data and to improve your recommendations over time.

What If The Data Was Needed Yesterday?

Sometimes an observation comes too late for an effective crop management decision. Insects have already damaged the crops, or a field with a low stand count is too far along to replant.

While the data might not be relevant to something you can manage today, it still often makes sense to record the conditions. These observations may be valuable at other times such as during the end-of-year crop planning sessions, or when analyzing data across multiple years. 

Also, having these observations recorded can be reviewed ahead of walking a field the next year so that your team is aware of issues to watch for and can pay special attention to those problems, such as patches of resistant weeds.

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