There are many pieces of equipment that farmers utilize to distribute either plants, fertilizers or pesticides to their fields and crops.  Ensuring that equipment is putting out the right amount is critical.  Which is why making sure your equipment is calibrated is key. Calibration is the process of measuring and adjusting the amount of product your equipment will apply over a target area.  This could be pesticide through a sprayer, seed through a grain-drill, or even litter through a spreader.  Before calibrating any piece of equipment, it is important to inspect it and make sure that all parts are in good working order.  Nozzles, seed cups, drop tubes, coulters, and all the other moving parts should be functioning properly and free of dirt and blockages.

The only way you can achieve maximum accuracy from a sprayer is by calibrating it. While applying too little pesticide may result in ineffective pest control, too much pesticide wastes money, may damage the crop and increases the potential risk of contaminating ground water and the environment. The primary goal with calibration is to determine the actual rate of application in gallons per acre, then adjust if the difference between the actual rate and the intended rate is greater or less than 5% of the intended rate.  The type of application (broadcast, band or row) will determine the procedure for calibration.

Manure and litter spreaders are typically calibrated using the same techniques designed for calibrating commercial fertilizer spreaders. Precision calibration for commercial fertilizer spreaders is critical for obvious reasons. However, calibrating litter and manure spreaders can be difficult because of differences in material density, handling and flow characteristics, and particle size, especially when spreading cake-out litter that may have larger chunks and increased moisture compared to total-cleanout litter.

With fall approaching, it is time for planting winter annual forages. Proper drill adjustment and maintenance is critical for successful stand establishment. Grain drill calibration is a critical yet often ignored part of successful forage establishment and pasture renovation. Planting lower seed rates than recommended can result in thin stands susceptible to weed encroachment. Planting more than the recommended seeding rate is undesirable due to the high seed cost of many varieties. Most farmers just use the seeding chart already on their grain drill. As drills wear, and tires and cogs get replaced, actual seeding rates can vary significantly from the seeding charts.

To get some hands-on experience calibrating equipment, make plans to attend the Precision Ag Calibration Workshop hosted by the Madison and Franklin County Extension.  The workshop will be September 10 from 6pm-8pm at Emmanuel College, 256 Roach Street in Franklin Springs.  This workshop will instruct farmers on proper techniques to calibrate sprayers, no-till drills, and litter spreaders.  Dr. Wes Porter and Dr. Simer Virk, with the UGA Precision Ag Team, will be presenting the program.  One hour of private and commercial pesticide license re-certification credit will be available. Participants must pre-register by September 8 by calling the Madison County Extension office at 706-795-2281.