This article may be viewed at the Gempler's IPM Newsletter site, This article appears in Gemplers IPM Solutions - Volume 3, Issue 2, March, 1998, published by GEMPLERíS, Inc.,  800/382-8473.  In a footnote that appears at the end of the article, Gempler's Inc.  grants permission for republication for noncommercial use.  The GAPAC thanks companies like Gemplers for such material.


Tips on hiring a crop consultant

More consultant tips

Randy Van Haren of Pest Pros, an Independent crop consulting firm specializing in vegetable IPM, offers these additional tips in choosing a crop consultant:

  * Call some of the consultants in your area, your local farm coop and others to get "ballpark" figures on what consultants in your geographic area are charging.

  * If a person offers scouting services, find out whether he or she will personally be doing the scouting  or whether a less experienced employee will be doing it.

  * Ask prospective consultants how much supervision they give to less experienced employees who may be doing the actual scouting.


IPM Solutions

is published by GEMPLER'S, Inc., solutions for agriculture/horticulture direct to your dock or doorstep, P.O. Box 270, 100 Countryside Dr., Belleville, WI  53508

Editor: Barbara Mulhern

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You are committed to IPM, and understand the importance of a good monitoring program. But your time is precious - and you're not at all sure you have the time to systematically monitor your plants week after week for potential pest or weed problems. One solution is to hire a crop consultant to do the job for you. But there are certain pitfalls to be aware of and questions you can ask to increase the chances that you'll be satisfied with what you get.


Getting started

 Before you even begin to search for a consultant, ask yourself these questions:

1.  What exactly am I looking for?  Do you want someone to visually scout once a week and tell you what he or she finds? Or do you want a person who will also make treatment recommendations and jointly discuss the various options? Also, do you want that person to carry out the treatment option you choose?

2.  How much am I willing to pay? Determining how much a crop consulting service will cost can be tricky. Factors to take into account include how often you want the person to scout, the extent of his or her services, and the value of your crop. The National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC) notes that crop consulting fees vary widely, depending in part on your geographic area. For example, growers in some parts of the country may pay as little as $5 or $6an acre for a "basic" scouting service compared to $30 an acre in some locations for extensive consultation high value crops. But the variations don't stop there. Randy Van Haren of Pest Pros, Wisconsin-based independent crop consulting firm, says growers "who have lot of little fields are going to pay more" than those with one large field. Costs may also vary depending on the activity level of a certain pest. "A crop consultant may show up once week, but may spend more time in a given field, depending on what's happening," Van Haren says.


3.  Is it important to me that the consultant be independent? Independent crop consultants are not affiliated with the sale of any product. But companies that sell chemicals may also provide scouting services. Are you concerned about a potential conflict of interest? Or are you confident you can separate scouting results from a sales pitch?

4.  What Is my management style?  Look for a crop consultant you are comfortable with and one who will fit in with your philosophy and personal management style.

Questioning the consultant

If you aren't familiar with the various crop consultants in your area, a good source of information is your local Cooperative Extension agent. GEMPLER'S 1998 Almanac also includes a listing of private IPM consultants. Also talk to other growers, your local farm coop, and/or local suppliers.

"Growers typically want to know who else you work with," Van Haren says. Be sure to ask these growers whether the consultant they use is "conscientious," Van Haren suggests.


Experience important

Here are some additional. questions to ask prospective consultants:

   * How much practical, hands-on experience do you have?

   * What is your educational background?

   * Arc you certified? (According to NAICC, a Certified Professional Crop Consultant (CPCC) must have at least a bachelor's degree and four years experience in the field - while a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, plus two years experience.)

   * Row long have you been consulting in this area?

   * What type of technology do you use?

   * What methods do you use (i.e., sampling and data collection, etc.) to base your decisions?

   * What specific services will you provide at what cost? (Be sure to get this information in writing before you hire a consultant.)