Illinois crop competition calls for youth scouting teams

The Illinois Youth Crop Scouting Competition is not just any competition. It is a unique opportunity for agriculture students to showcase skills and knowledge while working on a team competing for a prize.

The team works together to explore and help solve today’s crop-related issues.

The competition is the perfect platform for students to demonstrate their expertise and take a step toward becoming future agriculture professionals.

“For youth interested in agronomy, the in-field experience and networking opportunities with ag experts from industry and the public sector that the crop scouting competition provides are extremely valuable,” said Talon Becker, commercial ag specialist with University of Illinois Extension. “The discussion and questions heard amongst students conversing with university researchers is so encouraging.”

Teams of high school students work together in a fun, hands-on environment and engage with university agricultural experts. Courtesy of Illinois Extension

During the competition on July 30, teams of high school students rotate through 10 stations set up in corn and soybean fields to test their knowledge on topics including weeds, insects, disease identification, corn and soybean growth stages, abiotic injury, pesticide application, and integrated pest management.

Having the skills to scout a field strengthens the relationship between what farmers see and what researchers study.

Knowing what is happening in the field gives growers the advantage to strategically make the best management decisions to maximize yield and profit.

Students are helping push the future of agriculture forward by participating in competitions through Extension’s Illinois 4-H and Illinois Association FFA.

“We know how hard these teams are studying, testing, visiting test plots, and preparing all year,” said Meagan Diss, competition coordinator and commercial ag specialist with Illinois Extension. “We’re excited to open registration and find 10 teams across Illinois ready to share their crop scouting skills in Champaign this summer.”

The Illinois Youth Crop Scouting Competition is a one-day contest that gives teams of students from across the state the chance to test their knowledge live and in the field. Courtesy of Illinois Extension

University staff will judge the teams to determine results, and the top four teams will win cash prizes sponsored by industry and university partners. The top two teams will advance to represent Illinois at the regional competition.

The competition field rotations begin at 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Crop Sciences Research and Education Center, 4202 S. First St., Champaign. Team check-in begins at 8 a.m.

It is open to high school students completing ninth to 12th grades in the spring of 2024. Official teams include two to five students, and an adult coach must lead all teams. Teams are encouraged to sign up before the end of the school year, as space is limited to 10 teams.

For event details or to register teams by June 30, visit

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, contact Meagan Diss at Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet access needs.

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

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