Calibrate. Calibrate. Calibrate.

- Jason Kaeb

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” someone once said, and calibrating your seed treatment equipment is no different. Calibrate your seed treatment equipment, or you’ll end up paying for it — one way or another. This could be in the form of liquid shortages or surpluses to treat your seed supply, or even worse, regulators get involved, and a penalty is dealt.

When we start talking about the importance of calibration, I don’t always see a real strong appreciation for the role of calibration, or for what could happen if things aren’t properly calibrated. From my perspective, you’ve spent a great deal of money on getting the right equipment in place and the tools and technology to make it all work. If you fail to regularly calibrate your equipment, you might as well operate the system manually.

The equipment operator relies on an automated system to deliver the accurate solution. In an un-calibrated system, this might be worse that not having automation at all, because the operator isn’t double-checking and paying attention. They are relying on the system.

Let’s take a look at what needs calibrating and at what frequency.

The seed scale should be calibrated annually. This scale is used to legally sell seed, and it’s imperative that this scale be calibrated and certified by a state certifying authority.

As we move to seed metering, the seed wheel should be calibrated for every seed size or seed type being run through the system. With most seed wheels, the manufacturer provides a seed cup and a small bench scale where a known volume of seed is weighed, known as the “cup weight.” This is entered into the seed wheel control device and gives the system an accurate reference, where seed volume corresponds with seed weight.

Another option is KSi’s VariRate, a loss-in-weight system that meters seed using the calibrated and certified seed scale. Once you’ve calibrated the seed scale, that’s all that needs to be done in the seed metering stage.

Finally, there’s liquid metering, which can be done using a volumetric flow meter, a mass flow meter or a loss-in-weight system. Most common is the volumetric flow meter. This type of meter should be calibrated at least twice a day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — to adjust for changing environmental factors, such as temperature or humidity. The volumetric flow meter should also be recalibrated if changing liquid solutions.

A mass flow meter should be calibrated every couple of years but verified every year. A loss-in-weight system uses a scale, which must be calibrated, and product density must be known. If one of these two pieces is not accurate, the metering will not be accurate.

This might seem like minutia of the job or a burden for equipment operators, but I encourage you to make calibration a priority at your site.

Remember: Giving a few minutes of attention each day to making sure your equipment is properly calibrated can save headaches … and money.