What the Revolutionary War, NASA and Building Bridges Can Teach Us About Crop Scouting

Read Time: 3 minutes

by Charlie Beeler, Manager of the Central Iowa Climate Research Farm

August 10, 2020


The year was 1776. It was the eve of the Battle of Trenton. A newly formed nation, known as the United States of America, was fighting for independence from the global superpower Great Britain. America was a ragtag team of mostly farmers and blacksmiths. The British on the other hand, were well-funded.

As the story goes, the night before the Battle of Trenton, British commander Johann Rall was engrossed in a game of chess. A scout came into his tent and handed him a piece of paper with the location of the American troops. Rall took the paper, placed it in his pocket, and returned his attention to the game. By many accounts, Rall never read this critical scouting note. This oversight ultimately led to his defeat the next day.

This story demonstrates the absolute importance of having all the right information at the right time. Although it may seem worlds away from farming, this principle holds. FieldView™ ensures farmers always have access to the data they need to make informed decisions. While an ill-timed game of chess isn’t your particular distraction, there is a considerable amount on your plate every season. Making sure you and your team — for example, your crop scout and agronomist — are on the same page and have the same information, is essential.


Get All Your Scouting Data in One Place

I lead one of the five Climate research facilities. Here at Fort Dodge, IA, we have more than 1200 acres running various trials every season. With the agronomic research we’re doing, it’s our responsibility to keep timely, meticulous notes, and keeping the team connected is crucial. Scouting pins are a simple solution that eliminates the headache of coordinating data from notebooks, documents, or thumb drives.

Marking a potential problem spot is as easy as dropping a pin, taking a picture, adding notes and sharing it with your team.


Get to the Bottom of Every Problem

When you have all your field data in one place, you get to the root cause much quicker. That reminds me of a situation scientists from NASA ran into after launching the Hubble Telescope. The first images the Hubble sent back were fuzzy and out of focus. Understandably, NASA was in a panic. As it turns out, while testing the camera back on Earth, a speck of paint fell on the lens, altering it just enough to put it out of focus. Eventually, NASA solved the problem, and now we have a beautiful picture of the stars to enjoy.

What does this have to do with scouting? It means you need as much information as possible to get to the root of a problem in a field. You want to solve a problem by looking at it from every angle. FieldView enables you and your team to examine many different factors. You can start with satellite and drone* imagery to visualize crop development. Then you can dig deeper. Does the issue have to do with something that happened during planting? Could rotation be a factor? How does the soil type play into the situation? With FieldView, you can analyze all this data and more, as far back as you have planting data. And you can do this all without rummaging through email, thumb drives, file cabinets or old boxes. It's all on FieldView and can be shared with anyone you choose.


The planting map on the left shows three different hybrids marked in green, blue and orange. The scouting map on the right is the same field, later in the season, and shows a clear difference in biomass for the orange hybrid. This is a great example of how having all your field data provides clear, measurable results.


Start From the Same Place

With all the moving parts of your operation, you need to remain connected and begin from the same starting point, with the same goal. That reminds me of one last story the Laufenburg Bridge. This bridge crosses over the border between Switzerland and Germany. The two nations agreed to build half of the bridge and meet in the middle. They realized the German side was 54 centimeters higher than the Swiss half of the bridge. Apparently, they had started from different elevations. Eventually, the Germans agreed to lower their half to connect the two sides.

When working with your crop scout, agronomist, dealer and other team members, you need to make sure you're always on the same page, every step. With FieldView, you're all looking at the same information about your fields, and when new information comes in, if you enable sharing with your team, it updates for everyone. This dramatically reduces the chance of miscommunication. Take it from the British infantry, the scientists at NASA and German architects — having the right information at the right time can avoid costly mistakes.

If you’d like to hear more insights on scouting, listen to episode 24 of the FieldView podcast, “Around the Farm.” I join host Rick Myroup on the show to share my top scouting strategies.

Good luck this harvest, and stay safe. If you run into any technical issues, remember, the Customer Support Team is always here to help, call (888) 924-7475.

*Requires a mutual subscription with one of our drone imagery platform partners.



About the Author

Charlie is a Climate Research Farm Manager in North Central Iowa. His team executes agronomic studies at production scale. He partners with Climate data scientists to understand agronomic interactions and variability in the field. He studied Agronomy at Iowa State University.