What is harvesting?

Harvesting is the process of removing the crop from the fields. Smallholder farmers often harvest manually, using hand tools, including sickles, knives, scythes or cutters. Mechanized technologies exist that reduce harvest losses while conserving labor. Mechanical reapers have been developed for use on small plots, and mini-combines that simultaneously harvest and thresh grain are also available for some crops in some regions. Large combines dominate harvesting on large-scale farm operations.

What causes postharvest loss at this stage?

Harvesting is the first step in the postharvest grain value chain, and plays a role in determining overall crop quality. Harvest timing and methods dictate losses during this stage. Losses can be large if cereals are harvested before they are fully mature or when the moisture content is too high or too low. Excessively dry crops will be subject to breakage while excessively wet crops will be subject to spoilage, among other things.

How large are the harvest losses?

Harvest losses vary with the technology and the crop, as well as other factors. Harvest losses can be measured by gleaning cereals found in fields after harvest, but this is an incomplete measure as harvest practices can lead to breakage and other losses later in the value chain. Losses tend to be highest with manual harvesting and lowest with use of a combine. However, improper speed and field conditions can lead to high losses with combines. Harvest losses for rice have been estimated to range from 1 to 5% (Hodges, Buzby and Bennett, 2011). Estimated harvest losses for maize in Africa can be as high as 8% (NRI, https://postharvest.nri.org/scenarios/grains )

What does research focus on?

Harvest-related research into postharvest loss often covers issues around mechanization and moisture content. To read related research articles, refer to the table below.

TitlesAuthorsTagsPublication DateCategoryfilters_hfilter

ADMI partners work to help farmers during pandemic

Sarah Schwartz

Harvesting, Mechanization, India, Bangladesh

2020

Blog Post

bangladesh harvesting-2 india mechanization region

The Economics of Post-Harvest Loss: A Case Study of the New Large Soybean – Maize Producers in Tropical Brazil

Goldsmith, Peter D., et al.

Harvesting, Maize, Oil Seeds, Value Chain

2015

Journal Article

harvesting-2 maize oilseeds value-chain

Variability of Dry Matter Loss Rates of 18% Moisture Soybeans at 35oC

Trevisan, Lucas R., et al.

Harvesting, Drying, Storage, Oil Seeds

2017

Journal Article

drying harvesting-2 oilseeds storage

Improving Farm Management Optimization: Application of Text Data Analysis and Semantic Networks

Liao, Wei-Ting, Luis Rodriguez, Jana Diesner, et al.

Harvesting, Value Chain

2015

Journal Article

harvesting-2 value-chain

Measurement of Combine Losses for Corn and Soybeans in Brazil

Paulsen, Marvin, et al.

Harvesting, Maize, Oil Seeds, PHL Technology

2014

Journal Article

harvesting-2 maize oilseeds phl-technology

Combine Harvester: Impact on Paddy Production in Bangladesh

Md. Kamrul Hasan, Md. Rostom Ali, Chayan Kumer Saha, Md. Monjural Alam, Md. Enamul Haque

Harvesting, Threshing, Paddy, PHL Technology

2019

Journal Article

harvesting-2 paddy phl-technology threshing

Harvesting: Effects of Crop Maturity and Moisture on Losses

Marvin R. Paulsen

Harvesting, Paddy

2015

Journal Article

harvesting-2 paddy

Postharvest Losses Due to Harvesting Operations in Developing Countries: A Review

Marvin R. Paulsen, Prasanta K. Kalita, Kent D. Rausch

Harvesting, Maize, Oil Seeds, Paddy, PHL Technology, Pulses, Threshing, Wheat

2015

Journal Article

harvesting-2 maize oilseeds paddy phl-technology pulses threshing wheat

Sustainable Paddy Harvesting Solution for the Southern Delta of Bangladesh

Md. Kamrul Hasan, Md. Rostom Ali, Chayan Kumer Saha, Md. Monjurul Alam

Harvesting, Paddy, PHL Technology

2020

Journal Article

harvesting-2 paddy phl-technology

References: Hodges, R. J., et al. “Postharvest Losses and Waste in Developed and Less Developed Countries: Opportunities to Improve Resource Use.” The Journal of Agricultural Science, vol. 149, no. S1, Feb. 2011, pp. 37–45. Crossref, doi: 10.1017/S0021859610000936.