When you’re scouting fields, go looking for trouble

Now is a good time to see if decisions made at planting paid off. Days are warming, plants are emerging and each field will tell a story of what worked and what didn’t.

When you enter a field, look for trouble – where are the problem areas? Are they scattered across the field or just at the field entrance, along the field edge or waterway? Maybe they are more severe in low areas or on exposed slopes. These are all hints that can help troubleshoot stand problems. My favorite signs are the ones that perfectly fit sprayer width, tractor tracks or the third row on the planter (see picture).

Note these problem areas and then look at individual plants. Compare healthy plants to the ones affected. Be sure to dig the plant up. This time of year, a lot of the mystery can be solved by looking at the seed, roots and sprouts.

Then check to see how big a problem it is. One or two plants with the same symptoms may just mean the field should be monitored regularly. Damage from diseases and most insects progresses with time.

Now is a good time to scout for:

  • Seed decay and seedling blight, also called “damping off”
  • Root rot or poor root development
  • Seedcorn maggots
  • Black cutworms
  • Slug damage
  • Armyworms
  • Seedling growth inhibitors caused by pesticide damage
  • Frost damage
  • Purple young plants caused by exposure to cool air and soil
  • Crusting or “leafing out” underground

Submitting samples to MSU Diagnostic Services can provide a definitive answer to the troubles. For tips on submitting samples, see the MSU Extension News article Early identification of pests increases management options. To submit a sample, complete a submission form available at the MSU Diagnostic Services website. Send or deliver to:

MSU Diagnostic Services
Center for Integrated Plant Systems
578 Wilson Rd., Room 101
East Lansing, MI 48824-1311

Or, e-mail digital photos to pestid@msu.edu.

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