Cover Crops: Benefits In the Field & How Precision Farming Complements The Practice

August 31, 2020

The consideration of cover crops has gained traction over the past decade, as more growers look to conserve soil and explore different approaches to nutrient management. When properly implemented, seeding the fields after harvesting or before planting cash crops can significantly benefit soil health and crop development in the long-term. By utilizing precision ag technology, such as ProTrakker Hydraulic Hitches, and guidance control systems, adopters of this conservation practice can ensure that their main crop has the best chances to be well established.

How Cover Crops Affect The Field

As with anything in life, there are both pros and cons to cover cropping. However, in this case, it is well documented that this practice's benefits can outweigh the drawbacks. The advantages create new opportunities for the soil and crops to flourish. Planting cover crops can offer the following benefits:

  • Add nitrogen to the field
  • Build up of organic matter
  • Improve the overall soil structure and permeability
  • Reduce soil runoff and erosion
  • Phosphorus runoff prevention
  • Provide additional weed control
  • Help with nutrient management

Costs associated with cover cropping is a factor that growers have to weigh when considering this practice. Components such as the cost of seed, time, labor, management, and equipment can be a barrier for some.

What Part Does Precision Ag Technology Play In Cover Cropping?

To plant cover crops, growers have a few options available: over-seeding, broadcast seeding, or drill seeding. Over-seeding is commonly done by using an airplane or equipment that has a high clearance. Broadcasting cover crops require a broadcast seeder that needs specific calibrations to achieve the desired dispersal rate and ideal emergence pattern. Drill seeding offers the most consistent seed distribution (requiring less seed than broadcasting) and helps establish strong stands for the cover crops.

Drilling is where precision ag technology comes into the picture. This planting method requires accurate placement of seeds to achieve a successful cover. ProTrakker advanced guidance systems compensate for any planter drift and eliminate possible overlap, ensuring accuracy while drilling cover crops. A grower can attain the proper crop density for the cover to help suppress weeds by having uniform seed placement.

ProTrakker hitches can quickly hook up to virtually any tractor's drawbar or three-point hitch and are compatible with a wide range of implements. This system works by utilizing the hitch's dual cylinders and control system feedback to adjust the implement direction when drift is detected. Depending on the type of hydraulic hitch, ProTrakker can offer as much as 13" to 30" of off-line correction. 

For more information about the benefits of ProTrakker implement guidance systems, visit