A competition that prepares youth for life beyond the field.

The Illinois Youth Crop Scouting Competition is a one-day contest that gives teams of students from across the state the chance to test their knowledge live and in the field.

Knowing how to properly scout corn, soybean, or any commercial crop field is essential to understanding plant growth and identifying potential threats to higher yields and overall profitability per acre. Scouting gives farmers a heads-up about what is happening in the field starting from crop growth stages to the presence of insects or weeds. The awareness allows them to strategically apply the best management decisions. 

Student teams of 2 to 5 high-school-aged youth with an adult coach rotate through 10 outdoor stations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign South Farm fields to test their skills hands-on with topics such as identifying weeds, insects, and diseases, identifying the growth stages of corn and soybean plants, assessing abiotic injury, pesticide application, and integrated pest management.

Teams are scored by judges, including University faculty, graduate students, specialists, and Extension educators. Cash prizes for the top four scoring teams. The top two teams will also advance to compete against students in other states and represent Illinois at the regional competition.

Ready to See What’s in the Field? 

  • Work together in a fun, hands-on environment.
  • Engage with university agricultural experts.
  • Win prizes and leave with bragging rights.

2024 Competition Details

Program Sponsors and Supporters:

  • Farm Credit Illinois 
  • Illinois Soybean Association 
  • Illinois Certified Crop Advisors 
  • College of ACES at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Department of Crop Sciences at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign



Once registered, teams should work with their coach to study regularly leading up to the competition. Review the below materials to help prepare.

  • IPM Curriculum: Integrated pest management presentations are available in both PDF and PowerPoint formats and includes notes. Provided by Iowa State University.
  • Virtual Crop Scout School: The Virtual Crop Scout School consists of webinars from crop protection specialists at 11 Midwest universities and is offered through the Crop Protection Network. The series is free, registration is required to access.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to: identification and information about crop diseases, insects, weeds, abiotic disorders, herbicide injury, growth stages, parts of the plant, degree day computation, sprayer calibration, and sprayer issues. There will also be a test on crop scouting.