Harvesting crops involves getting the crop out of the field and transported to market. Most crops are harvested in the fall, except for hay which is cut several times over the course of the summer.
Field crops are harvested by machine, while small fruits and other food crops are typically harvested by hand, although in certain cases, they may be harvested by machine.
Operations and Timing
Typical harvest period (in eastern corn belt)
|Corn - grain||October 7 to November 3|
|Corn - silage||September 1 to October 15|
|Soybeans||October 1 to October 20|
|Wheat (spring)||August 14 to September 1|
|Wheat (winter)||June 15 to July 15|
|Hay||Usually 3 cuttings from May 15 to Sept. 30|
Forage Harvesters - are tractor-drawn implements or self-propelled
machines that are used to gather, chop, and discharge forage crops as it
moves through the field. The crops are typically harvested at a very high
moisture content to permit ensiling
(preservation through anaerobic fermentation). Forage harvesters require
a great deal of power to perform the required functions. The largest self-propelled
forage harvesters currently available have diesel engines that produce in
excess of 600 horsepower.
Combines - are farm machines used to harvest grain and
seed crops. The major functions performed by a combine include cutting
and/or gathering, feeding, threshing, separating, cleaning, and grain handling
operations on-the-go in the field. The vast majority are self-propelled,
receiving power to perform all of the previously listed operations and traction
from a diesel engine. The combine is often the most expensive farm machine
used in grain or row crop production with list prices for the largest models
exceeding $350,000. Some machines can harvest a thirty-foot swath of crop
in a single pass through the field.
- are self-propelled machines specifically designed to pick (or strip),
accumulate, and off-load large quantities of cotton in the field.
Grain Carts - are tractor-drawn implements used to shuttle
grain from combines to hauling vehicles or to grain receiving facilities.
Grain carts are usually equipped with "high-flotation" tires or rubber tracks
to attempt to minimize soil compaction in the field. The capacity of such
carts can exceed 1,000 bushels (equivalent to 56,000 lb of shelled corn
or 60,000 lb of soybeans).
Balers - are implements used for packaging hay, or
straw to permit mechanized handling and transport. The two most common
bale formats are large round bales (> 4 feet in diameter) and large
rectangular bales (up to 8 feet in length). Large bales can weigh more
than 2,000 pounds.