Once the crop is in the ground, the game is on!

Your seed has the potential to yield at least 700 bushels per acre on corn and 200 bushels per acre on soybeans. Your job is to protect as much of that potential as possible. Scouting on a regular basis throughout the season is key.


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
  • Diseases
  • 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?


There are a ton of things to look for above ground. Here is a start.

  • Patterns in the Field – Tillage, sprayers, fertilizer applications, etc.
  • Watch for early season disease, insects, and weeds. Proper identification is key.
  • Symptomology from frost damage, herbicide response, etc. Being out in the field each week is important so you can get a better idea of when a problem started.
  • Stand Counts and Even Emergence – Notice the plant-to-plant differences in the field. All plants could look great, but why don’t they?
  • Planter Issues – For example, are all the plants in the center of the row?
    Or do they move from side to side? If they are not centered, you may not be creating a perfect V furrow.


It’s also SUPER important to stage the crop each time you go to the field and document the GDUs (growing degree units). Management apps like the Ag PhD GDU Calculator, Climate FieldView, and Farmers Edge can help you keep records of this, but you can do it by hand, as well. Knowing your growth stages and what’s happening in the plant will help you time future treatments and management decisions.

One product I’m watching closer this season is Heat Shield. North Carolina State University and others have documented cooler temperatures in the crop canopy when using this product, leading to less stress and higher yields. This is one of the reasons I am bringing along the infrared thermometer.


Finally, watch for nutrient deficiencies. Better yet, do some plant tissue testing and even pull an additional soil sample here and there when you notice different zones in the field to help you better manage plant nutrition going forward.


For some good, quick references and tools to use in the field, all Ag PhD apps are FREE for download in the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store.