When you enter a field, look for trouble – where are the problem areas? Are they scattered across the field or just at the field entrance, along the field edge or waterway? Maybe they are more severe in low areas or on exposed slopes.

These are all hints that can help troubleshoot stand problems. My favorite signs are the ones that perfectly fit sprayer width, tractor tracks or the third row on the planter (see picture).

Note these problem areas and then look at individual plants. Compare healthy plants to the ones affected. Be sure to dig the plant up. This time of year, a lot of the mystery can be solved by looking at the seed, roots and sprouts.

Then check to see how big a problem it is. One or two plants with the same symptoms may just mean the field should be monitored regularly. Damage from diseases and most insects progresses with time.

Now is a good time to scout for seed decay and seedling blight, also called “damping off”

• Root rot or poor root development

• Seedcorn maggots

• Black cutworms

• Slug damage

• Armyworms

• Seedling growth inhibitors caused by pesticide damage

• Frost damage

• Purple young plants caused by exposure to cool air and soil

• Crusting or “leafing out” underground