The Iowa State University Corn and Soybean Initiative seeks team applicants and adult leaders for a new program designed to give high school students a taste of what it takes to be a modern farmer.

The 2011 Iowa Crop Scouting Competition, taking place in late July and early August, couples real-world scouting experience based on integrated pest management principles with community service. The program is an effort to build awareness of Iowa agriculture through hands-on learning and teamwork.

Daren Mueller, coordinator of the initiative and ISU’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, said that while agriculture employs one in every six Iowans, many of Iowa’s youth are unaware of the vital role it plays in the state’s economy or the challenges facing Iowa farmers each season.

“This is the first scouting competition for high school students,” Mueller said. “Through it, we hope to encourage both ag and non-ag students to develop a greater appreciation for agriculture’s contribution to our state and nation, while learning about some of the challenges Iowa’s corn and soybean growers face.”

The competition consists of four regional team-scouting contests at ISU research farms; an individual test assessing crop and pest knowledge; a crop scouting report of each team’s findings; and a team community service project. The two top-scoring teams will advance to compete in a state final. 

All assessments are based on IPM curriculum materials supplied by Iowa State. Teams that register by May 15 pay $5 per team. After that, the fee is $10 per team. The final deadline to register is July 1, to allow for time to receive and study the curriculum materials. Teams should include three to four members.

“While we expect a lot of teams to consist of 4-H and FFA students, we encourage any and all eligible high school students to enter,” Mueller said. He added that any adult can assemble and register a team. “You don’t have to be an ag teacher, farmer or involved in agriculture to sign up a team.”

The dates for regional scouting contests are: July 26, at the Armstrong farm, near Lewis; July 29, at the Northeast farm, near Nashua; Aug. 3, at the Northwest farm, north of Cherokee; and Aug. 5, at the Southeast farm, near Crawfordsville. The state final will take place Aug. 19 at ISU’s Field Extension and Education Laboratory, near Boone.

The scouting competition was developed and organized by Mueller; Jay Staker, ISU Extension youth development specialist; Adam Sisson, ISU Corn and Soybean Initiative program assistant; and Alan Spencer, Iowa FFA executive secretary. 

It was funded by a grant from the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center, with funding for some of the curriculum materials supplied by Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and the Iowa Soybean Association.

For more information, or to register for the competition, contact Sisson at (515) 294-5899 or