There are scouting tools and then there are serious scouting tools. The MESA hand-held scouting computer from Ag Leader definitely qualifies as a true scouting tool. It's pricey, but it's equipped to help you geo-reference points and take notes in the field.
Danny Greene of Greene Crop Consulting, Inc., Franklin, uses the hand-held computer both when taking soil samples and when taking stalk samples for nitrogen analysis. He can program in spots where he wants samples before he ever enters the field. Then the device will help him locate those points precisely.
One big advantage of this tool is that it has built-in GPS, Greene says. Some of the early models of hand-held devices for crop scouting didn't have built-in GPS. If the scout wanted to get to the right spot, he had to figure out how to take some sort of GPS receiver with him. One time I was with a scout that actually attached the small, hockey-puck size receiver to his straw hat, up high where standing corn wouldn't interfere with the signal.
Even though this unit that Greene uses has GPS inside, it can get a signal anywhere in a corn field. A small indicator in a circle-shape shows where he is, and his goal is a spot marked by a red dot. Once he gets close to the dot by walking toward it, he can zoom in and cross-hairs appear. He can put himself exactly where the coordinates want him to be. He uses WAAS for correction, but says on most days it is very accurate. It is accurate enough for sampling work, he says.
This fall Greene went into several fields to get stalk samples for nitrogen analysis. Often, he was doing guided sampling, where he had picked out four locations to sample based on an aerial image. Then the GPS receiver inside the hand-held computer guided him to the exact spots where he wanted to take samples.