Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest This has been a year of making decisions to improve farm practices and being as efficient as possible. Technology sales remained stable through the winter months along with the generation of variable-rate fertilizer prescriptions. Regardless of implementing fixed-rate or variable-rate applications of fertilizers, an important factor to efficient and effective fertilizer use is proper maintenance, setup and calibration of spreaders. Annual calibration is always a necessity but when did you last take the time to properly setup and calibrate?Spreader settings need to change accordingly for each fertilizer product being applied.Additionally, the settings may need to be adjusted based on different application rates and field conditions. While technology on spreaders, especially VRT spreaders, has significantly increased in the last 10 years, the technology being adopted does not directly correlate to accurate field performance. Crop yield could be compromised if incorrect rates are applied or non-uniform application occurs. Calibration should be part of a regular maintenance schedule for all application equipment. Uncalibrated applicators are like driving with a broken speedometer on the interstate, you have a general idea of the speed you’re going but you may be under the minimum speed limit (under applying) or possibly even over it (over applying). Here are six points to consider for fertilizer spreaders to make 2017 a profitable year. Equipment setupType of fertilizer matters! Fertilizer products vary in density and physical properties, therefore spreader setup in accordance to product is vital. Measure fertilizer density and adjust settings accordingly. Visit http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/fabe-5501 for a detailed discussion on the effect of fertilizer material properties on spreading plus density charts of common fertilizers.Proper maintenance of the spreader is important. Repair and replace as needed. Before operation, double-check the following maintenance points: proper conveyor tension, bearings, tire inflation, conveyer wear along with vane and spinner wear. Common problems include un-level spinners, spinners operating at different RPMs, damaged discs, spinners not centered evenly under chute, fertilizer build-up on parts, bent or cracked spinners, and corroded hoppers or components.CalibrationCalibration procedures can vary between manufacturers and models. However, two essential aspects exist for accurate field execution; 1) metering to obtain the right rate (bin to spinners) and 2) uniformity of spread (spinners to ground).Meter – bin to spinners. Meter calibration will include running the conveyor over a known time or distance then measuring the amount of dispensed product and comparing to the in-cab display estimated amount. Adjustments to gate height and conveyor constant will help dial into an accurate metering. One will need to calibrate for different fertilizers since varying in density and properties. Equipment manuals outline the proper procedure and specific adjustments to make.Spread uniformity – spinners to ground. Spreader distribution patterns can be hard to accurately evaluate without conducting a proper spread pattern test. Pan testing following standard protocol is required to evaluate spread uniformity. Consult with a spreader dealer on obtaining a spread pattern test kit.Be sure to take good notes of settings for future reference. Note any calibration constants and setups. Field operationSpread width or swath spacing needs to be maintained in order to prevent too much or too little overlap between swaths. If not already being used, guidance systems greatly reduce error and operator fatigue in spreaders/spreader trucks.Proper Setup — use the calibrated settings for a particular fertilizer including adjusting the product density within the in-cab display setup, using the correct spinner speed, and adjusting the chute to the proper position. Remember to operate at the specified spread width to ensure correct overlap with adjacent passes. There is still time to calibrate. These six points help ensure accurate field execution; 1) type of fertilizer (use the correct product density), 2) proper maintenance, 3) meter calibration, 4) spread uniformity calibration, 5) correct spread width, and 6) proper setup. Trey Colley is graduate student in the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering and can be reached at [email protected] Dr. Fulton, Associate Professor, can be reached at [email protected] This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.