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Students can put field scouting skills to the test at crop scouting competition

Teams of students looking at crops and walking through fields taking notes.

URBANA, Ill. — Knowing how to properly scout corn, soybean, or any commercial crop field is essential to understanding plant growth and identifying potential threats to profitability. The Youth Illinois Crop Scouting Competition puts teams of agriculture students to the test of skills that prepare them for life. This hands-on contest in August provides high school students from across the state the opportunity to learn and network.

“The Youth Crop Scouting Competition is back for a third year, providing a fun and educational opportunity for aspiring ag professionals to engage with students from around the state as well as agriculture researchers and experts,” says competition coordinator Talon Becker with University of Illinois Extension.

Agriculture professionals believe crop scouting is an important skill for farmers that can help lead to higher yields and increased profit per acre. Scouting keeps farmers aware of what is happening in the field with crop growth or yield stealers, including diseases, insects, and weeds. With this information, growers can strategically make the best management decisions to maximize yield and profit. 

In the competition, teams of students will rotate through 10 stations to test their knowledge on topics including weeds, insects, disease identification, corn and soybean growth stages, abiotic injury, pesticide application, and integrated pest management.

“We want to help prepare students for success in their future careers in agriculture and environmental sciences by helping them apply their knowledge from the classroom in a hands-on, interactive manner,” says Becker.

University staff will judge the teams to determine results, and the top four teams will win cash prizes. The top two teams will advance to represent Illinois at the regional competition.

The competition will be 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. August 1 at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign South Farms corn and soybean fields located at the Crop Sciences Research & Education Center, 4202 South 1st St., Savoy, IL 61874.

It is open to high school students completing grades 9 to 12 in the spring of 2023. They will form teams of two to five students and must be led by an adult coach. Teams are encouraged to sign up before the end of the school year. A maximum of 10 teams can register for the competition. For event details or to register for free by June 30, visit

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, contact Talon Becker at Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet access needs.

SOURCE: Talon Becker, Commercial Agriculture, Illinois Extension
WRITER: Jenna Braasch, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.