Crop scouting contest offers real-world experience


By Sayde Uerkwitz

On August 19 five FFA Crops Teams participated in the Purdue Crops Scouting Competition. Teams had practiced for several months over the summer to compete in this first year event.

The contest was organized by Corey Gerber, Purdue Diagnostic Training Center (DTC) director, and Kiersten Wise, an Extension Specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Gerber said the goal of the Purdue Crop Scouting Competition is to promote agriculture amongst Indiana youth.

“We hope that this contest will be another tool to encourage youth to consider agriculture as a future career. Additionally, by introducing Indiana youth to integrated pest management concepts at an early age, we increase the chances that they will be more informed agricultural producers and agribusiness personnel. This knowledge will improve their quality of life by increasing their agriculture-related revenue and reduce the unintended environmental impacts of agriculture.”

Five teams competed at this year’s event. Those teams were Connersville FFA, South Newton FFA, Eastern Hancock FFA, South Central FFA and Rochester FFA.

Team members were tasked to work as a team to collectively answer questions at seven different stations (weed, plant disease, insect identification, soil/plant fertility, corn and soybean growth and development, and scouting), all related to crop scouting. The stations focused on the teams using hands-on approaches to answer questions about practical and accurate diagnosis of common crop problems. Station activities were led by members of the Purdue DTC, including Jim Camberato, Shaun Casteel, Travis Legleiter, Bob Nielsen, Gerber, Wise, and their graduate students 

Darren Allen, South Newton FFA team coach, said their team participates in several crop and soil competitions throughout the year.

“Our chapter is involved in the FFA crop and soil career development competitions and I teach a plant and soil science course. This contest appeared to be a contest that would incorporate that knowledge into a practical competition. We also receive a lot of support for our agriculture and FFA program from local agronomy services and we hope these kids might find future employment there.”

Allen also said, as a teacher, he felt being able to move through the sessions with the students was just as educational for him as it was for them.

“It is always a good thing to see your students in action and given the experience to travel from station to station with them gave me the opportunity to see just how they had learned and understood the material and then applied it to the situation presented to them. I honestly feel that this particular invitational gave the students a "real-world" experience that no other event or classroom could have done.”

Wise said both student teams and coaches enjoyed the hands-on approach to the contest, and appreciated the interaction with Purdue specialists. 

“The contest focused not only on accurate diagnosis and application, but also taught students about the practical application of their knowledge. The teams and coaches indicated that the practical application was really beneficial to helping the students understand the “real-world” agricultural applications.”

The South Newton FFA team collectively said the competition was a great learning experience and a lot of fun.

“We met with different agronomists who taught us just about everything they knew. We enjoyed scouting the bean field because there were multiple problems and it was our job to find them, rather than the problem just be shown to us.”

The team added that they studied multiple test plots to prepare for any information that could be part of the competition.

After the scouting portion of the competition was complete, all team members took individual exams. The points from each part of the competition were totaled for an overall team score.

The top three teams were recognized with a certificate. In first place was South Newton FFA; in second place was Eastern Hancock FFA and in third place was South Central FFA.

The competition could not have been possible without the support of the sponsors.

The Indiana Corn Marketing CouncilIndiana Soybean Alliance and Dow AgroSciences provided generous support for the crop scouting event. This support allowed students from across Indiana to engage in a real-world crop scouting learning experience.

Gerber added that all five teams have signed up to participate in the competition next year, which will be held in the middle of August 2015.

For more information about the contest, contact Gerber at