Crop Scouting Competition Provides Day of Fun and Hands-on Learning for Youth Interested in Agronomy

Register for the 2024 Crop Scouting Competition by July 1

April 18, 2024, 2:32 pm | Sydney Peterson, Maya Hayslett

AMES, Iowa –Teams may register for the 2024 Crop Scouting Competition for Youth, according to Iowa 4-H and the Iowa State University Integrated Pest Management program. The event will be held July 25 at the Field Extension Education Laboratory in Boone.

Franklin County youth examine a soybean plant.Middle and high school students in grades 7-12 are invited to put their crop scouting skills to the test, competing against other youth teams across the state. The event aims to bring awareness of IPM in Iowa and allow youth to learn IPM basics through hands-on learning and teamwork.

“Equipping future farmers and agronomists with crop scouting skills will help the next generation of farm decision makers with crop production and land stewardship,” said Maya Hayslett, crop science youth education specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and program coordinator for the Iowa Youth Crops Scouting Competition. “The competition has the potential to foster a lifetime of understanding about the concepts and importance of IPM and thus improve quality of life by increasing economic returns and reducing the unintended environmental impacts of agriculture.”

At the event, teams rotate between different crop plots at the field station where they are evaluated on their knowledge and skills in crop scouting by answering questions and demonstrating field skills as asked by station judges. Stations are run by Iowa State faculty, staff and agriculture industry professionals, allowing students to work next to and learn from experts.

Potential topics include crop diseases, insects, disorders, weed identification, crop growth stages, cover crops, sprayer calibration and pesticide use. There will not be a written exam this year, a change from previous years’ competitions. New this year, however, is an optional visit to the ISU Department of Agronomy to learn more about their program offerings.

In addition to the competition, youth have a free lunch from Hickory Park and participate in fun activities with youth from around the state. “Last year, we had the most participants ever, so this year the schedule has been arranged to include more teams,” said Hayslett. “Feedback from previous participants tells us that this is a valuable experience for the youth and we hope to allow everyone interested to participate.”  

Based on points accrued from the field station evaluations, the top four teams are eligible to win cash prizes. The top two teams will advance to the regional competition at the University of Minnesota to compete against teams from seven states this September.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has resources, including a new coach’s guide, field guides, publications and presentations to help each team prepare for the event. For more information and resources, and to register, visit https://www.ipm.iastate.edu/crop-scouting-competition-iowa-youth-2024. Watch a recap from last year’s event on YouTube.

The event is sponsored by the following: Corteva Agriscience, Iowa 4-H Foundation, Bayer, Syngenta, United Soybean Board, Iowa Independent Crop Consultants Association, Iowa Certified Crop Advisors, ISU Integrated Pest Management Program, Iowa Soybean Research Center and Environmental Tillage Systems.

For questions, please contact Maya Hayslett at hayslett@iastate.edu.

Shareable photo: Addison Moellers and Max Kofoot, Franklin County youth, examine a soybean plant at the disease scouting station. Photo courtesy of Lexa Krause.

About the Authors: