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 DateCategory

ADMI partners work to help farmers during pandemic

Sarah Schwartz

Harvesting, Mechanization, India, Bangladesh


Blog Post

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


Journal Article

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

Trevisan, Lucas R., et al.

Harvesting, Drying, Storage, Oil Seeds


Journal Article

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

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

Harvesting, Value Chain


Journal Article

Measurement of Combine Losses for Corn and Soybeans in Brazil

Paulsen, Marvin, et al.

Harvesting, Maize, Oil Seeds, PHL Technology


Journal Article

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


Journal Article

Harvesting: Effects of Crop Maturity and Moisture on Losses

Marvin R. Paulsen

Harvesting, Paddy


Journal Article

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


Journal Article

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


Journal Article

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.