Rice farming is generally extremely labour-intensive. One of the most demanding stages of rice farming is harvesting rice. It requires time, resources and lots of human labour. In this article we shall be discussing the whole process of harvesting rice and other relevant details.
When To Start Harvesting Rice
Harvesting rice is imminent when anything between 3 to 6 months has elapsed from the beginning of rice farming. The maturation period varies from variety to variety though. Even weather aspects such as temperature can affect the maturation period.
Tests Or Checks
You can check the rice grains to ascertain readiness for harvesting. The grain should be fully developed, firm and the hulls should be yellowish in colour. If you do a bite test the grain should not easily break and should not be easily chewy. The rice plant should be somehow bent over due to the weight of the fully developed rice grains. This is yet another indication for the imminence of harvesting rice. One of the things to check or test for is the moisture content of the rice. The best time to start harvesting rice is when the moisture content is roughly 25 percent.
Approaches In Harvesting Rice
Harvesting rice is a process that can be done either manually or by use of mechanical implements. The mechanical approach is broadly done through combine harvesters or other mechanical implements such as reapers. This approach is not widespread due to limitations arising from costs or access. The most popular approach is manually harvesting rice. As much as this approach is great it demands lots of human labour. Roughly 100 or more hours would be needed to harvest rice on just one hectare – this is of course subject to the number of people harvesting rice on that hectare. Alternatively, when using mechanical approaches, for instance, a combine harvester, it can take 3 to 5 hours to harvest rice on one hectare.
How Rice Harvesting Is Done
Draining The Rice Field
Rice farming approaches usually entail a field laden with water. This is especially so for wet rice farming where the field will literally be flooded. In order for harvesting rice to be optimized the field must be drained. Draining water is actually easier for terraced fields. This is because drainage channels can be created for the water to move downhill. For fields that are not terraced ways to drain the water can be improvised depending on available machinery or the terrain. After draining the water, the next step in harvesting rice is the actual cutting of the rice plants.
Cutting The Rice Plants
Mechanical or manual means are applied here; manual cutting when harvesting rice is most common though. Sickles are normally used in manually cutting the rice – lots of human hands are needed for this. It is a much slower method (in comparison to using machinery) but it tends to be more thorough. Using machinery can also come with complications such as getting stuck – remember that the field will be swampy. The other challenge with machinery, such as combine harvesters, is that they harvest everything even including unripe or poor quality rice grains. That unwanted grain can ultimately affect the subsequent processes and even the quality of the grain. After cutting the rice, the next stage in harvesting rice is the drying process.
Drying The Rice Plants
In harvesting rice the drying process is extremely important. Rice that would have been harvested using mechanical implements such as combine harvesters can be dried artificially. Artificial drying can be done by use of a wide range of driers. This is different from manual rice harvesting because when it is manual rice stalks are produced from the cutting stage. Those cut rice stalks are moved away from the field to a place that is sufficiently dry and exposed to direct sunlight. The cut stalks are stacked together in an upright posture and left to dry. At most 3 days should be enough for the stalks to dry. After this stage, the next stage involves threshing.
Threshing seeks to separate the actual rice grains from the stalks. The methods used to thresh are various and depend on what can be used by respective farmers. As is the case for other preceding stages, threshing can be done manually or mechanically. The most common method is the manual one – no wonder harvesting rice manually is labour-intensive. Manually, the cut and dried rice stalks are hit against a floor, wooden logs, or specialized tables, and so on – farmers can always improvise to see what best suits their context. The next stage entails cleaning though it is possible for the rice to be dried again after threshing.
The cleaning process involves removing unwanted debris and solid particles. These include the stalks, husks, weeds (that could have tagged along), and other various unwanted solid particles. The second drying we highlighted earlier (that follows threshing) can alternatively come after cleaning. Either way it is recommended that rice grains must be sufficiently dry before the next stage. At the beginning we highlighted that when rice is at 25 percent moisture content it is ready for harvesting. For rice to be ready for the next stage (which is milling) moisture content must have gone by another at least 10 percent.
During threshing it is possible for some husks to fall off exposing the rice. However, a total removal of all husks requires that the rice be milled. Bear in mind that milling is not always necessary. When the desired outcome of harvesting rice is white rice then milling is inevitable.
Yield of Rice
If you carefully follow the stages we have discussed herein you should get a good harvest. Harvesting rice must be done at the most opportune time – not too early, not too late. The yield of rice varies depending on the efficiency of the rice farming processes. If everything, even from the initial stages of planting and so forth, is done properly, rice yields ranging from 3 to 5 tonnes can be realized on 1 hectare. A point of emphasis again, is to be wary of the dryness attributes we discussed earlier.