When I go to the field, I always have a tile spade, infrared thermometer, sweep net, and smart phone or tablet. One other tool that’s pretty handy is a penetrometer to give you a number quantifying your soil density or compaction.
On my smart phone/tablet, I use a number of apps including the free Ag PhD apps – Field Guide, Deficiencies, Corn Diseases, Soybean Diseases, GDU Calculator, Planting Population, Mode of Action, Spray Tips Guide, and Ag PhD Soils. Download them today so you can use them, too.
I like to start below ground and begin by digging roots. Rather than getting distracted by what’s happening on the leaves and visible parts of the plant, I want to start from the bottom up. The cause of success or failure above ground is often explained by the root system and soil structure below.
When you dig roots, here are a few things to look for:
- Root Hairs – Are they healthy and white?
- Root Depth – Is there anything limiting root growth?
- Planting Depth – Is it consistent? Did you hit your target depth?
- Insect Feeding
- Compare Treatments – Early season is a great time to see differences in planting-time seed treatments, but later in the season, you may not notice them as well until the combine hits the field.
- Seed Trench – Was there sidewall compaction or any root damage from fertilizer?