The base unit is an older 12-row cultivator built by Manitoba-based Elmer’s Manufacturing, to which Bergen added a couple ingenious modifications. While the cultivator already had cut-away disks, he installed an additional set ahead of them to aid in clearing wheat stubble from the beet row. Those disks came off an old Alloway cultivator that Maier had purchased for $300.
While the up-front disks do a good job of clearing away stubble in the seed row, the accompanying result was a deeper-then-desired ditch. That’s where the second set comes in. It is
reversed, so moves some of the soil back into the row. The resulting seedbed is slightly lower than the untilled inter-row area, providing two benefits, according to Bergen: “We have less problem with our beets freezing, and they don’t blow out.”
Maier and Bergen make a late-fall pass with a McFarland harrow across the harvested wheat fields that will be going into beets the following spring. The angled pass spreads the wheat chaff quite uniformly across the field. That’s the only operation until the strip-till pass the following spring. Starter fertilizer goes on with the strip-till unit.
Since he already had the Elmer’s cultivator and plenty of scrap metal around the farmyard, Maier says his only investment — other than Bergen’s time — in the strip-till modification was the $300 for the Alloway cultivator. For his part, Bergen says it took only a couple days to make the alterations and get the system field-ready. “I made one row, checked it out and built the rest of them,” he relates, adding with a smile: “And it turned out all right.”