By Kaeley Kindrachuk B.App.Sc., AT, Regional Crops Specialist, Outlook SK, Stacey Spenst, PAg, Regional Forage Specialist, Kindersley, Regional Services Branch

As the growing season progresses, plant health within annual and perennial crops is at the forefront of most producer’s minds.

Nutrient deficiencies, disease, insects, herbicide and environmental damage, or even a combination of these things, can all wreak havoc on plant health and vigor. Compromised plant health can result in reduced yields and quality, both affecting producer bottom lines.
Recognizing the initial signs of degrading plant health or other agronomic issues will allow for the possibility of early intervention and remedy of the issue before the problem results in severe crop losses. Many issues are first noticed by visual indicators within the plant stand.  Being able to detect and understand these indicators can be a handy skill to allow for early treatment of the issue, ultimately potentially decreasing losses.
Unfortunately, these visual indications can present themselves in many different ways, and can be difficult to distinguish from one issue to another. This is why it is important to consider all options when trying to diagnose a problem in a crop or plant stand. Correct diagnosis is very important as treating a crop for the wrong problem can result in serious losses, as well the expense required to administer the incorrect treatment.
Crop diagnostics can sound overwhelming to some producers and new agronomists, as making a field or plant diagnosis usually takes multiple steps. Getting an accurate diagnosis can be as simple as knowing what questions to ask, and where to look for answers.
Often, symptoms seen in pictures taken in lab settings are very different from what they might look like in the field. The Crop Diagnostic School was created to help agronomists and producers learn and practice their diagnostic skills in a field setting. At the school, participants will have a chance to examine plants, pull weeds, sweep for insects and search for disease. Industry experts will be available to answer questions.
The day is split into several stations, focusing on key topics:


  • Insect Identification and Scouting


Attendees will be able to use a sweep net to collect and identify both pests and beneficial insects. Presenters focus will be on insects identified by attendees or outbreaks specific to the year or Indian Head location.


  • Disease Identification and Scouting


Improve your disease diagnostic skills to identify different diseases in cereals, pulses, canola and flax. Experts will be on hand to assist with identification and teach participants more about how diseases affect all crops within cropping rotations.


  • Soil Fertility


Session A: Attendees will explore the effects of salinity, different fertilizer placements and combinations as well as nutrient deficiencies on crop emergence and growth.
Session B: Attendees will have a chance to view a demonstration of the effects of different inoculum and fertility rates on various crops, plus hand-texturing and soil moisture. A new component this year is soil survey map interpretation and what information can be learned from them.


  • Weed Management


This station will discuss and display the concept of herbicide layering and integrated weed management. Identification and control of problem forage weeds will round out the station.


  • Sprayer Technology


Tom Wolf and Brian Caldwell with AgriMetrix Research and Training will demonstrate and discuss how attendees can improve crop canopy penetration when spraying. Different application methods such as water volumes, nozzle types and droplet sizes in various crops will be demonstrated.
All participants will have a chance to attend each one.
One day sessions of the Crop Diagnostic School will be held on July 25 and 26 at the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation. Registration is open online at
For more information:


  • Contact a Regional Crops or Forage Specialist at a nearby Saskatchewan Agriculture Regional Office; or
  • Call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.


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