The Alabama Cooperative Extension System Cotton Scouting School is iconic. For 60 years, Extension scientists taught the Scouting School in person and hands-on. But the 61st Cotton Scouting School is going digital — pushed to an online version because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The short course will be July 24 from 8 a.m. to noon EDT. via Zoom. Growers, consultants, scouts and others are encouraged to attend just as they would an in-person scouting school.
Alabama Extension cotton, peanut and soybean entomologist Scott Graham will facilitate the course.
“Due to the pandemic, we had to change it up a little bit, but producers can expect the same up to date information they need to manage insect pest economically,” Graham said.
Graham said the knowledgeable lineup of Extension specialists and regional agents will be available to answer questions during presentations—just like during an in-person training.
The cotton scouting school will include cotton and soybean pest information, as well as include some hot topics in the agricultural industry.
Interested growers can register for the Zoom meeting in advance. After registration is complete, producers will receive an email confirming registration.
• Cotton insect pests: insect descriptions, recognition, life history and damage, seasonal occurrence, managing recommendations and threshold levels. Pests discussed will include thrips, aphids, spider mites, plant bugs, caterpillars, stink bugs and silverleaf whiteflies.
• Beneficial insects and sporadic cotton pests.
• Soybean insect pests: insect descriptions, damage, threshold levels and scouting techniques.
• Dicamba: updates and thoughts on moving forward.
• Cotton agronomics and the use of PGRs in cotton.
• Tennessee Valley agronomic update: description, recognition and key management concerns for weeds in row crops
• Southeast Alabama agronomic update: description, recognition and key management concerns for weeds in row crops
• Presenters include Graham, Ron Smith, Steve Li, Steve Brown, Tyler Sandlin, Eddie McGriff, William Birdsong and Kris Balkcom.
COVID changes and course offerings
As with in-person trainings, the scouting school will provide 10 CEUs for certified crop advisers. Hours will be awarded as long as the attendees are logged in to the meeting for the entire four hours.Graham said he and Ron Smith, a long-time cotton entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, have worked to provide the same service level growers expect despite the pandemic.
“Of course, we are taking precautions to make sure we are providing information in a safe way,” Graham said. “But we are always available by call, text or email and can make field calls whenever necessary.”
The scouting school meeting will be recorded and posted to the Alabama Extension website so producers can have access at a time convenient for them.
“Obviously, we would prefer to hold scouting schools in person, but we are excited about the opportunity to provide this service for our stakeholders,” Graham said. “One thing that can be missing in a virtual meeting is personal interaction. We hope to facilitate conversation and interaction during the presentations, as this is all about answering questions from the field that our producers have.”
For more information about the online scouting school, contact Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org. After registering for the Zoom meeting in advance, producers will receive a confirmation email as well as instructions on how to connect to the Zoom meeting.
Alabama Cooperative Extension Service contributed this article.