Using a TAGARNO digital microscope for seed testing


How to use a digital microscope for seed testing

With a digital microscope, you can take your seed testing to the next level. Learn how, why and the benefits here.

Whether you’re a seed analyst, director of a seed lab or something completely different within the world of seed testing, you know that microscopes are a prerequisite for getting the job done. Without a microscope, it’s impossible to see the different parts of the seed to test it properly.

You also know better than anyone how many hours are spent at a microscope when doing seed testing and how often it leads to neck, back and shoulder pain.

You’ve probably also realized that it’s cumbersome if not impossible to document your seed testing results on traditional microscopes – and perhaps that why you’ve come to our website; because you’re researching alternatives to traditional microscopes and new ways to get the job done. If so, we’re happy to tell you that you’ve come to the right place.

Person using a TAGARNO TREND to inspect seed and grain

What is a digital microscope?

If you’re new to the world of digital microscopy, let’s briefly outline what a digital microscope is.

With a digital microscope, a camera is recording what is happening underneath the microscope and displays it on a monitor.

A digital microscope thus looks quite different from traditional magnification systems, but it’s this digital display that creates an array of benefits when used for seed testing.

The benefits of using a digital microscope for seed testing

A digital microscope is great for seed testing because it not only solves issues caused by outdated magnification systems. It also creates new opportunities for more efficient seed testing.

Let’s look at some examples.

Reduce job-related pain

By using a monitor to display the seeds, you’ve eliminated the need for an ocular. Instead, the seed analyst will be able to sit up straight as they’re doing their inspections rather than looking downwards through an ocular.

Introducing ergonomic intervention methods, like a microscope with a monitor rather than an eyepiece, is more comfortable for seed analysts to use and can help reduce eyestrain, headaches and extremity fatigue.

Promotes teamwork

The digital display also makes it easy for seed analysts to ask a colleague for a second opinion. Instead of taking turns to look through the ocular, an analyst can simply point to the area of the sample that they want to discuss.

Illustration of microscope operators and how different systems affect their posture

Take photos of seeds instantly

If and when it’s needed, the seed analyst can also capture a photo of what’s displayed on the monitor with a press of a button. This is much easier compared to stereo microscopes or desk magnifiers, making documentation a key benefit of a digital microscope.

Use software for faster and more accurate seed testing

While the benefits listed above mainly solve current issues caused by outdated microscopes, digital microscopes also introduce new and more efficient ways of doing seed testing. This is by having access to software.

Below, we’ve listed the most used software for seed testing. We’ll also explain how they can help you work more efficiently and accurately.

  • Presets
  • If you always need 50x magnification with the ring light at 70% intensity when doing purity testing, save it as a preset. Next time you’re doing purity testing, simply recall the preset and the microscope will automatically adjust itself. As a result, you’ll save time by not having to adjust the microscope manually and you’ll know for sure that you’re using the exact same settings again and again.

  • Ruler app
  • By activating an on-screen ruler, the seed analyst can quickly see the real-life size of the seeds they are inspecting. The ruler can be activated in a range of colors for maximum visibility.

Offering 0.5% accuracy, the Ruler app is a standard feature on the software compatible microscopes from TAGARNO.

    • Measurement app

For more accurate and advanced measurements, seed analysts can also use the highly accurate yet easy-to-use Measurement app. Here, seed analysts can make length, radius, angle, polyline measurements and more with a 3µm accuracy.

With Measurement app, seed analysts can also use the annotation tool to highlight or comment on the completed analyses before saving it as a photo. For easier analyses going forward, the measurements themselves can also be saved as a heads-up display. This allows seed analysts to quickly verify the size of seeds without performing a new measurement every single time.

  • Image comparison app
  • To help highly specialized processes within seed testing, seed analysts can capture and transfer photos to the microscope to build their own seed database using the Image comparison app.

The photos can then be used as a comparison for quicker and more accurate identification of current seeds underneath the microscope.

"Switching to digital microscopes has
made a huge difference"

This quote is from Birthe Krogh, Laboratory Manager at DLF in Denmark.

DLF is one of many happy customers worldwide that uses digital microscopes from TAGARNO for their inspection needs.

See what our customers say about us
Operators from DLF analyze seed and grain using a digital camera microscope
See what our customers say about us

Processes within seed testing where you can use digital microscopes

Due to the versatility of digital microscopes, we won’t be able to provide a complete list of the different processes within seed testing where and how digital microscopes can add value to your lab.

Below, however, we’ll highlight 4 processes where digital microscopes are commonly used.

Seed identification

When identifying seeds, it’s important to look for an array of cues:

  • The size, shape, and color of the seed
  • Lines, ridges, and pits on the seed surface
  • Whether the seed has wings, hair, scale, or spines
  • The internal structure, position, and size of the embryo
  • The presence or absence of the endosperm

To see these cues clearly, you need a microscope that can produce high quality images – even as you’re moving the seeds around – with 60 frames per second and auto focus. This is where the digital microscope comes in.

Instead of using reference collections, you can also use your digital microscope with the Image comparison app to always capture and update your seed database with new and more detailed photos for more efficient processes going forward.

In addition to this, you can also measure the size and shape of the seed itself as well as any markings in the seed surface directly on the microscope using the bestselling Measurement app to help you correctly identify the seed.

Purity analysis

Purity analysis is the process of calculating the proportion of pure seed, inert matter, and other seeds within a seed sample. While magnification isn’t necessary for the entire process, the high image quality and framerate of digital microscopes make them a great tool when inspecting the surface texture and gloss to separate the sample more accurately.

With this being a manual process, you’ll instantly be able to tell the difference between using a traditional and digital microscope. By being able to sit up straight and look straight ahead at a monitor rather than downwards through an ocular, you’ll experience less back and neck pain during this time-consuming process. As a result, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and calculate a more accurate seed purity percentage.

Germination testing

Digital microscopes can also play a crucial role in assessing the viability and potential for growth of seeds during the germination testing. With a digital microscope, you’ll be able to closely examine the initial stages of germination and easily document how the seeds sprout and develop into seedlings.

This can be done by placing the seeds underneath the microscope and:

  • Use the Auto capture mode to automatically capture images at a certain interval as the seeds begin to sprout
  • Connect the microscope to a computer with a USB cable and the generic USB drivers of the computer. Then, open the built-in Windows OS Camera app to record videos of the seeds to document how they develop during this analysis

Using digital microscopes for this process thus allows for better documentation during and after the completed test. The photos and recordings can also be forwarded to your customers for more thorough documentation of the completed test.

Seed viability testing

Similar to germination testing, digital microscopes are a great tool when doing tetrazolium testing, commonly known as the TZ test for seed viability.

During the preparation stage, the digital microscope can not only help you achieve the magnification levels required for necessary preparatory and conditioning steps but can also be used to document that these steps have been completed.

After completing the staining process, it’s time to inspect the tissue for a variety of characteristics. Once again, the high image quality of the digital microscopes and how easily you’ll be able to document your findings more than justifies upgrading from desk magnifiers or traditional microscopes to a digital version.

Knowing that TZ testing is a manual process that requires a lot of time spent at a desk, changing to a digital microscope with a monitor display will also create a more comfortable setup. In turn, you’ll be able to work more efficiently by not having to look downwards through an ocular for hours on end. With the digital display, you can also ask a colleague for a second opinion, promoting teamwork and more efficient seed viability testing as a result.

Woman using a multifunctional digital microscope to inspect seed

What to consider when choosing a digital microscope for seed testing

Knowing that digital microscopes can be useful for a wide range of seed testing processes, it’s now time to look at what kind of digital microscope you should go for.

While certain seed testing processes may require more magnification or advanced features than others, there’s a handful of common denominators to look out for.

With that in mind, make sure that the digital microscope you’re considering has the following features and technical specifications for the best results:

Alleviate pain with freedom of movement

Two key factors in musculoskeletal pain are awkward postures and repetitive movements. Choosing a microscope with a digital display rather than an ocular is a great start to improving your work environment and reducing these two factors.

However, it’s important to also look at what type of monitor you’ll be looking at.

Is it built-in? If so, can the angle and height of the monitor be adjusted to accommodate the seed analyst?

Or is it separate with the freedom of placing it wherever you want as a result?

Another way to reduce musculoskeletal pain is by introducing foot pedals. This allows you to keep your hands on the sample while adjusting the magnification level or focus of the microscope with your feet, hereby putting other muscles to use and thus eliminating repetitive movements usually performed by the hands.

Make sure you have enough room

For accurate and efficient seed testing, it’s also important that you have enough room underneath the microscope to fit your hands and the tools you’ll be using. This is referred to as working height.

Some digital microscopes can be adjusted in height which adds a lot of flexibility and may increase their versatility while others only have one height setting. Which kind you prefer is up to you.

Similarly, it’s important to consider how much working space you need. That is, how much you want to be able to see at a time. If you want a clear overview of your entire lot, it’s a good idea to choose a microscope with a longer arm and bigger working area. By comparison, if you’re working with smaller lots or need high magnification to see the seeds, a microscope with a shorter arm may suffice.

Auto focus and excellent images without delay

When using a digital microscope for seed testing, it’s crucial that the microscope has auto focus and displays 60 frames per second.

If you’re used to using stereo microscopes, you might not know what that means, so let’s break down why that’s important.

Without auto focus, you’ll constantly have to adjust the microscope to create a sharp image as you’re moving the seeds around. With auto focus, however, the microscope will focus automatically and ensure that the seeds are always in focus. It’s a much more pleasant experience and once again eliminates those repetitive movements that cause musculoskeletal pain.

60 frames per second refers to how much information the microscope is able to display on the monitor per second. If, as an example, the microscope only displays 30 frames, you’ll experience a delay between what’s happening underneath the microscope and on the monitor. This will not only lead to frustration but some even experience getting motion sickness from this.

With 60 frames per second, however, everything happening underneath the microscope is displayed in real-time on the monitor for a seamless experience.


Whether you want to build your own seed database or simply need to document the results of your seed testing, it’s important to choose a microscope where it’s easy to capture high quality images of the magnified seeds. After all, this is a key benefit of a digital microscope so why make this process more complicated than it needs to be?

For the easiest processes possible, make sure that the microscope has at least one of these two features:

  • A dedicated button on the control box to capture photos
  • Generic drivers that allows you to connect the microscope to a computer via USB and use the built-in Windows OS Camera app on your computer to capture photos and videos

Other things to look out for

Depending on what exactly you’ll be using the microscope for, other features may be necessary. If you need help identifying your exact needs, please contact us. We’d be more than happy to help!

We can even show you the features online in a Teams meeting where we share the microscope feed to all meeting participants without having to meet physically. This is a great option if you’d like colleagues from multiple locations to join the meeting and find it difficult to get all calendars to line up.

Analyzing grass seed screen digital camera microscope Tagarno

Our technicians can see every detail of the seeds clearly and easily analyze the results

DLF is setting new standards with smarter seed testing after upgrading to digital microscopes on locations worldwide.

What digital microscope is best for seed testing?

There’s many digital microscopes to choose from these days. Among the leading brands in the digital microscope market is TAGARNO, a Danish company known for its innovative and high-performance microscopes. Let’s have a look at how they can be used for seed testing.

A selection of the best digital microscopes from TAGARNO

TAGARNO ZIP as a seed testing microscope

TAGARNO ZIP produces sharp images at all magnification levels up to 53x and offers high frame rates, making it a great digital microscope for seed testing.

Although there’s only one working height setting, there’s more than enough space underneath the microscope to fit the tools you need. The one height setting also means that it’s easy to set up and requires very little manual adjustment.

Lastly, the TAGARNO ZIP can either be controlled with the control box or a footswitch. With the footswitch, you can use your hands to move the seeds around while adjusting the magnification level or focus area with your feet. This prevents you from having to put your tools down while adjusting the microscope, which in turn creates a more comfortable workstation and efficient setup.

  • Minimal adjustment needed, reduces risk of user error
  • Easy to get started
  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • A great low-entry product
  • No software options
  • Requires a separate computer to capture photos

Download free brochure on TAGARNO ZIP

Could ZIP be the right microscope for you?

Download this free product brochure and learn more about this low-entry microscope with all the basic features that you need for seed testing.

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Preview of TAGARNO ZIP product brochure
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TAGARNO TREND – a versatile microscope for seed testing

With TAGARNO TREND, you can magnify up to 330x, making it a great tool when high magnification is required. The high frame rate and auto focus of the TAGARNO TREND create high quality images and an excellent live image as you’re moving seeds around.

Where TAGARNO TREND really shines is with its height adjustable arm and large working area. This makes it possible to inspect larger lots while still having plenty of room for any tools that you need to test the seeds.

TAGARNO TREND can also run apps, including the Image comparison app that allows you to build your own seed database. The Ruler app and Measurement app are also great additions to seed testing processes and can be useful in quickly measuring the size of the seed itself and markings on it.

  • Adjustable height
  • Large working area makes it great for bigger samples
  • Advanced features and software
  • Easy documentation processes
  • Long arm requires a sturdy table to reduce vibrations at high magnifications

Download free brochure on TAGARNO TREND

Are you considering TREND as your next microscope?

With this free product brochure, you'll learn everything you need to know about this microscope, including a walk-through the features that make the TREND unique.

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Preview of "Is TREND the right microscope for me" brochure
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There’s more to read

Now that you’ve made it to the end of this guide, here’s a few other blogposts that you might find interesting.

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