In this article we will discuss about the month, duration and season suitable for harvesting the following types of crops: 1. Cereal Crops 2. Fiber Crop 3. Sugar Crops 4. Tuber Crop 5. Oilseed Crops 6. Pulse Crops.
1. Cereal Crops:
Paddy (Oryza sativa L), wheat (Triticum sp), Maize (Zea mays), Jowar (Sorghum vulgare Pers), Oat (Avena sativa L) etc., are cereal crops. The cereal crops are harvested when ears are nearly ripe and the plants are dried after becoming yellowing and the seed contains 15 percent moisture in case of Paddy and 12 percent moisture in Case of wheat (zea mays L), maize (Triticum Sp), jowar (Sorghum vulgare), oat (Avena sativa L), etc.
Timely harvesting of Paddy (Oryza sativa L) ensures optimum grain (Avena sativa L) quality, higher market and consumer acceptance since the grain is less likely to break when milled. The grain may be lost due to shattering, lodging and damage by rats, birds and insects etc., when the Paddy (Oryza sativa L) is not harvested in-time.
The steps to be followed for harvesting of Paddy (Oryza sativa L) are as follows:
(i) The water from the field should be drained from the field 7-10 days before the expected harvest date or when the upper grains in most of the tiller are in hard dough stage and turning from green to yellowish. The draining out of water from the field hastens the maturity of grain.
(ii) A few grains from the upper portion of mature panicle and the translucence and firmness of the grain should be observed. Grains when become ready for harvest are clean and firm. The upper portion about 80% of the spikelets should be straw coloured.
(iii) The grains from the base of the panicle needs to be inspected. When most grain about 20% at the base are hard dough stage, the panicles are ready for harvest.
(iv) About 80% of panicles should have 80 % ripened spikelets at the time of harvesting.
(v) At the time of harvesting mature grains should contain 20% moisture. High or low moisture content at the time of harvest later on badly affects the recovery of grains.
The Wheat (Triticum sp) is harvested when the straw is golden yellow, brittle and bends downward. The local aman variety, jowar, bajra etc are harvested when the plants are completely dried. The maize (Zea mays L) is harvested at fully mature stage and green cob stage depending on the uses. The cereal crops are cut close to the ground with the sickle, now a day, reaper, combine harvester etc., are using for the harvesting of cereal crops except maize.
2. Fiber Crop:
Jute (Corchorus sp), Sannhemp (Crotolaria juncea) etc., are the important fiber crops in our country. Generally Jute (Corchorus Sp) crops get ready for harvesting at 120 DAS (Date after sowing). Jute plants may be cut at any time before they are dead ripe, but harvesting is not usually done before flowering.
Generally the jute may be harvested in three stages as follows:
(i) At flowering stage – Harvesting of Jute (Corchorus Sp) at this stage produces good quality fiber, but the yield becomes less.
(ii) Pod stage – Harvesting at this stage, both the yield and quality of fiber are found to be good.
(iii) Pod ripe stage – Harvesting at this stage, the yield is slightly higher, but the quality of fiber is reduced.
From various experiments in Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibers, Barrack pore, West Bengal and Farmer’s field, it was found that the second stage i.e. pod stage is ideal for harvesting of Jute (Corchorus sp) as for both quality and yield are concerned. The danger of flood or need for timely planting of succeeding Faddy necessitate an early harvesting of crop before the appearance of flower bud. Since the plants are immature at this stage, the yield of fiber is low.
The plants are cut close to the ground with sickle having no serration. In high lands, the harvested plants are left in heaps in the field for 3-4 days for the leaves to dry and shed. After this period, the plants are tied into bundles of about 15.0-22.5 cm in diameter and the plants are shaken at the time of bundling when most of the leaves shed on the ground.
Thereafter, the bundles are brought to retting tank preferably to a canal with slow moving water for steeping. In low land, where the Jute (Corchorus sp) plants may be harvested in standing water, steeping is carried out immediately after harvest.
3. Sugar Crops:
Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) is one of the most important sugar crops of our country. The crop matures within 10-12 months after planting.
Crop maturity is judged by some symptoms as follows:
(i) The leaves become yellow and the lower leaves are withering up gradually, leaving progressively fewer leaves at the top. The apical leaves become small in size.
(ii) Plant stops growing.
(iii) The internodes of mature cane becomes short in size and produce metallic sound on hitting.
(iv) The canes become brittle and break easily at node when the canes are bent.
(v) The buds swell out at nodes and start sprouting.
(vi) The Sucrose content is 20 % or more. The sucrose content is possible to measure by “Hand refracto meter”.
The sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) stalks are cut ground level after digging down the earthed up ridges. They are then stripped off dry leaves, topped at the topmost mature internodes where the stalks usually break easily. These cane either sold to sugar factories or used for milling. Milling is done by three roller iron crusher operated by bullocks, oil engines or electric motor.
Milling should be done in cool hours of morning or in night and the extracted juice should be boiled without delay in iron container called karaha. Generally the bagasse is used as fuel. The juice is boiled till the boiling syrup reaches a temperature of 118-120°C. At this stage, if the syrup is dipped from a ladle, it forms fine silken thread which flies in the breeze. Then the syrup is quickly transferred to earthen troughs and then poured into a tin or any container when cooled.
4. Tuber Crop:
Potato (Solarium tuberosum L) is the important tuber crop of our country. Tuberization takes place after 45 DAP (Days after planting) and the development of tubers continues till the vines die. The harvesting time is determined by the prevailing market price and the crop to follow after Potato (Solarium tuberosum L). It takes about 80-120 days for maturity depending on the variety.
The potato is harvested depending on the mode of uses as follows:
(i) Early Crop:
The crop of early varieties such as Kufri Chandramukhi, Kufri Alankar etc., can be harvested after 65-70 days of planting when the tubers are immature in order to get the higher market price prevailing during the month of December-January or to vacant the land for the next crop to be grown. The fresh potatoes have a high market value when they appear in the market after a lapse of nearly six hotter summer months during which period the consumer are tired of ‘Sickly sweet taste’ of tubers kept in cold storage.
But the immature fresh Potatoes shrink severely, bruised easily and extensively due to their delicate skin which initiates oxidation process and subsequently imparts a dark colour to the exposed surface of the tuber. Therefore, the product must be disposed of immediately after harvest. Because, the immature tubers of the crop is totally unsuitable for storage as the skin of immature Potato are tender and subjected to rotting.
(ii) Main Crop:
The ware crop meant for storage should be harvested at full maturity stage. The leaves turn yellow and are shed in course of time and haulms dry up and die which may be taken to be an indication of maturity. Potato (Solarium tuberosum L) crops show the sign of maturity in about three months of planting.
During the time of harvesting, the soil must be moist and easily workable. If the harvesting is to be delayed, it is best to leave the soil dry and light irrigation is to be given at about the time of harvest, just a couple of days before to make the harvesting easy.
It is never advisable to harvest tubers in wet land as in this condition; the produce will acquire a dull dirty look and lowers its market value besides making it difficult to collect the tubers. The haulms could be cut to enforce maturity, particularly in late varieties. Potato (Solanun tuberosum L plants) may be left as such in the field even after 10-15 days of prescribed mature period.
The method of harvesting potato varies from region to region. In the river bed sandy soil, the tubers can be taken out simply by stirring the soil by hand. Besides this, Khurpi, the most popular hand hoe in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, spade and country plough, the most common and popular implements throughout the country, are used for harvesting Potato.
5. Oilseed Crops:
(i) Mustard (Brassica Sp):
Rai and Toria should be harvested at a stage when the leaves turn yellow, plants shed leaves and the pods are just ripe. Sarson can be harvested at a comparatively dry ripe stage as it is less liable to shattering of seed. Delay in harvesting causes shattering of seeds. Harvesting this crop early in the morning minimizes the shattering loss of seeds.
Harvesting is done with a hand sickle or uprooting the plants. The harvested plants are carried to the threshing floor and dried either in bundles keeping the roots downward or spreading in the threshing floor for 5-6 days before threshing.
The threshing is done by beating the dry plants with bamboo sticks or wooden mallets or by trampling under the feet of bullocks. How a day, Paddy thresher is being used for threshing the mustard. (Brassica Sp) The seed can be clean by traditional method of winnowing. Winnowing is done with the help of natural air current by dropping the threshed produce from a basket held shoulder height.
(ii) Sesame (Sesamum indicum L):
It is most essential to make proper assessment of ripeness and maturity. The capsule at the base of the plants mature first and the starts maturing upwards. The crop should not be allowed to dry completely in the field as such practice leads to losses of seed due to bursting of capsule and shattering of seeds.
The harvesting is done at a stage when:
(i) Flowering is ceased.
(ii) Leaves turn yellow and start shedding.
(iii) Capsules are ripe but still look greenish.
(iv) Lower leaves starts shedding and upper leaves look pale in colour.
Harvesting if delayed for the sake of immature pods results in shattering of mature pods.
The plants are cut with sickles or uprooted in light soil. The harvested plants are carried to threshing floor and staked for a week. During this period, the capsule burst open and leaves shed almost completely due to rotting. Then the plants are dried in open sun and threshing of dried plants is done.
The threshing is done by turning the plants upright down and shaking or light beating on the floor. The seeds can be cleaned with the help of special type of sieve meant for cleaning seeds of this crop. Afterwards, the seed is cleaned by traditional method of winnowing.
(iii) Linseed (Linum usitatissimum Linn):
The crop takes about 105-175 days to mature according to the variety. The crop mature in the period from the end of January to the end of April according to the time of sowing, tract of cultivation and the variety grown. When the crop is grown for fiber, harvesting is done at flowering stage and when grown for dual purposes, harvesting is done at green ripe stage. For oilseed purposes, the plants are harvested when the capsule are just ripe.
Usually the crop becomes ready for harvesting when the plants turn golden yellow and leaves and capsule begin to dry. The crop is harvested by pulling out the plants or cutting them close to the ground by sickle. The harvested plants are carried to threshing yard and they are dried for a few week or more.
The threshing is done by beating the plants with sticks or by treading under the feet of bullocks. Hand beating is better when the fiber along with seed is required. After threshing, winnowing is done to get clean seed. The seeds are dried in bright sun for 2-3 days, so as to bring down the moisture content preferably to 5.0 percent.
(iv) Ground Nut (Arachis hypogea Linn):
The groundnut (Arachis hypogea dinn) Plants attain maturity and get ready for harvest after 105-120 days for bunch type and 135-150 days for spreading type after sowing of seed. Early harvesting reduces the yield, shelling percentage and seed size. Delay in harvesting after maturity will allow the pods to germinate in the soil and heavy loss in yield and quality occur. The yellowing of leaves, shedding of older leaves and the development of proper colour in the testa and a dark tint inside the shell are the prominent symptoms of maturity.
Harvesting should be done when good percentage of nuts is fully developed and fairly intact. The bunch type variety is harvested by pulling out the plants when there is adequate moisture in the soil. The spreading type variety is harvested by digging out the plants with the help of spade, khurpi, groundnut digger etc., or by ploughing the field with country plough.
In this case, the plants are removed before sickle before harvesting. The left out pods are collected afterwards by hands. The harvested plants are stacked in small heaps for 2-3 days for curing. The pods are then picked up by hand or the pods are separated from the plants by using groundnut Sheller.
The pods have to be dried as early as possible in order to bring down the moisture content below 8 percent. Because higher moisture level in the pods are congenial for the production of aflatoxin caused by yellow mould (Aspergillum flavors) which create a health hazard to both human and cattle who consume such kernel.
The pods that are dried properly can be judged as follows:
(i) The well dried pods when shaken give metallic ratting sound.
(ii) The testa gets separated when rubbed in hand.
The rabi or summer produce groundnut loses viability quickly if dried under direct sunlight. As such, a portion of the harvested materials meant for seed purposes should be dried under aside with pods intact till the moisture level comes down to a reasonable limits.
The dried pods may be cleaned and the damaged or injured pods must be sorted out before storing of the produce. The pods are stored in gunny bags and the gunny bags are stocked in store room in tiers of not more than ten bags in each tier. The bags should be piled on wooden planks in such a way that the air keeps circulating in between the spaces to avoid damage from dampness, rats, insect pest etc.
The groundnut (Arachishypogeo Lin) should be stored in the form of pods rather than kernel. The undersized/under developed pods as well as broken and damaged pod should be discarded before storing, because their presence reduces the market price.
(v) Sunflower (Helianthus annuus Linn):
Sunflower (Helian thus annus Linn) is a new oilseed crop. At I.A.R.I, New Delhi, the crop takes 90-120 days in Kharif, 90-125 days in Rabi and 85-100 days in summer. The crop is harvested when the lower side of disc turns yellow and some of the bracts dry up. The crop is ready for harvest when the moisture in the seed is 20 percent. But the seeds when harvested at 8-10 percent moisture level have better keeping quality and higher oil content.
The mature heads are cut with the help of sickle and dried in bright sun on threshing floor for 5-6 days. All the heads may not be ready for harvesting at one time. Harvesting may, therefore, be done in two or three installments to avoid shattering.
The dried heads are beaten with the help of wooden or bamboo sticks to separate out the grains, the commercial crops may be threshed with available thresher by reducing its speed. The plants should be removed from the field and are used as fuel. After threshing, winnowing is done to get clean seeds.
The seeds are dried in bright sun for 2-3 days to bring down the moisture content to 5 percent. The seeds are stored in gunny bags, in ware house with having good ventilation. However, there should not be high humidity and moisture inside the storage house.
(vi) Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius Linn):
The Safflower (Carthamus tictorium Linn) Plant matures in about 130-150 days after sowing depending upon the variety. At the stage of harvesting, most of leaves and bracteoles become dry and brown and the seed moisture content is around 12-14 percent.
Harvesting is done preferably in the early hours of the day, when shattering will be minimum and spines are relatively soft. Harvesting is done either by cutting the entire plants with sickle or by uprooting depending on soil type. After harvesting, the plants are staked in the field in the form of small and well pressed heaps until they are fully dried. The dried plants are threshed either by beating with sticks, by using bullock drawn stone roller, tractors or power operated thresher.
The winnowing is done to obtain clean seed. The seeds are dried in bright sun for 2-3 days, so as to bring down the moisture content preferably to 5 percent. Seeds should be stored in bins in well aerated sheds preferably at 5 percent moisture. However storage for long period should be avoided, especially for commercial produce for oil extraction, to minimize the deterioration in quality.
(vii) Castor (Ricinus communis Linn):
The crop takes six months to mature. The capsules are picked when the spike turns from yellow to black, starting at 120, 140, 160 days after planting of dwarf variety. The picking of other varieties is about six. Harvesting is in two to four stages as and when the spikes are fully dry.
The spikes of shattering varieties however are harvested at physiological maturity stage and heaped. Cow dung mixed water is sprinkled over the heap and due to heat development, the capsules dry up. The harvesting is done manually by cutting the spikes.
Then the spikes are dried in sun for 4-5 days for threshing. In our country, the threshing is largely done by manual labor i.e. by beating the spikes gently with sticks. The threshing can also be done by using either a hand operated huller. In a few parts of our country, the threshing is done by cattle.
After threshing, winnowing is done to get clean seeds. The seeds are dried in sun for one or two days before storage. Then the seeds are stored in gunny bag, in ware houses having good ventilation. However, there should not be high humidity and moisture in the storage house.
6. Pulse Crops:
(i) Gram (Cicer arietinum L):
Gram (Cicer arietinum L) matures in about 150 DAS (Date after sowing) or more in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and 120 DAS or less in Bombay Deccan and further South. Crop becomes ready to harvest when leaves turn reddish brown, dry up and starts shedding and plants are drying.
Harvesting is done either by cutting the plants close to the ground with sickle or pulling the plants. The Crop is harvested early in the morning in the dry season to minimize the loss due to shattering of grains. The harvested plants are carried to threshing floor, dried about a week in the bright sun and then threshed by beating the plants with sticks or treading the plants under the feet of bullock or with the help of suitable threshing machine.
(ii) Pea (Pisum sp):
(a) Garden Pea (Pisum sativum var hortense):
The garden pea (Pisum sativum var. hortens) is cultivated in the garden and used as vegetable and other table purposes. The crop becomes ready for harvesting within 90-100 days of sowing. The pods are harvested for table use when the pods are well filled and young tender pods are changing in colour from dark to light green.
The pods of this crop may be picked in 45-60 days, 75 days, and 100 days according to early, mid-season and late varieties respectively. The pods are handpicked and some are left to ripe for the production of seed. 3-4 pickings are done at an interval of 7-10 days. Fresh unshelled pods may be kept two weeks at 0°C and 90-95 percent relative humidity.
(b) Field Pea (Pisum sativum var.arvense):
The field pea becomes ready for harvesting within 120-135 DAS (Days after sowing). The field peas are harvested when the plants are drying. The harvested plants are carried to the threshing floor, dried about a week and then threshed by biting with sticks or treading under the feet of bullock. The seeds are cleaned by winnowing and the clean seeds are stored in gunny bags or in pusa bin.
(iii) Lentil (Lens esculenta Moench):
Lentil (Lens esculentus Moeuch) matures in 120- 130 days and gets ready for harvesting from the month of February-March depending on time of sowing. When the leaves become dry and pod ripe, the plants are pulled out, carried to threshing floor, dried about a week and then threshed by beating the plants with sticks or treading under the feet of bullock. Harvesting should be done in morning to avoid the shattering of pod.
The seeds should be cleaned by winnowing and dried in the sun to bring the moisture content in seed at about bl2 percent for storing the seed safely. The seeds are the stored in gunny bag or any suitable container according to the quantity of seed.
(iv) Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) – Syn :Vigna sinensis Savi/Vigna catjang Walp):
(a) Green Pod:
The Cowpea (Vigna Ungniculata) becomes ready for picking the green pod at 45 DAS for early variety, 75 DAS for medium variety and 100 DAS for late variety. The green pods for using as vegetable are plucked at an interval of seven days. Delay in harvesting of green pods result in poor yield and the pod may develop fibrous due to retention of pod in the plant for longer time.
(b) Grain Crops:
The grain crops become ready for harvesting in 90-105 days and 135-150 days for short duration and long duration varieties respectively. All the pods of this crop do not ripe at the same times. So it is advisable to harvest the plants when two third of pods are ripen. The plant is harvested as fodder and is used as green manures when the plant starts bearing of the flower.
The plants harvested for grain crop are brought to threshing floor and dried in bright sun for 6-7 days. Then threshing is done by beating the dried plants with sticks or treading under the feet of bullock or with suitable threshing machine. Care should be taken about excessive beating as to avoiding that seeds are not injured. The seeds should be cleaned by winnowing and stored in gunny bag or any suitable container.
(v) Red Grant or Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan Millsp/Cajanus indicus Sprengl):
The Red gram (Cajanus cajan Millsp) takes six to ten months to mature. Flowering starts in the month of October and November and continues for two or three months. The crop is an indeterminate growth type and thereby the growth is continued with reproductive phase. So flowers and ripe pods are found on the same branches between the month of January and March. So pods are picked by hand at frequent interval.
The best time for harvesting of the crop when over 75 percent of the pods turn brown, becomes rough and produce metallic sound on hitting. The plants are cut to the ground level by sickle when most of the leaves are dried and shed. The harvested plants are tied into bundles which are carried to threshing floor and stacked in upright position and dried for few days in the bright sun. The dried plants are vigoursly shaken or beaten the pods with sticks which separates most of the grains.
The pods are beaten with sticks or trampled under the feet of bullocks. Pullman thresher may also be used for threshing of Red gram. (Cajanus cajan Millsp) The seeds are then cleaned by winnowing and the clean seeds are dried in bright sun for 4-5 days to reduce the moisture content into 10-11 percent and then stored in gunny bag or any suitable container for use in future.
(vi) Green Gram (Vigna radiata)- Syn. (Phaseolus aureus Roxb):
The flowering in green gram (Vigna rodiata) starts in about 60DAS and the crop matures after another three or four weeks. All the pods of this crop do not ripe at the same time. Two or three hand pickings of ripe pods are done at an interval of seven days. Because shattering of pods is a great problem of this crop. After third pickings, the crop is cut for threshing or ploughing under for green manuring. The threshing, cleaning and storing of grains is same as Gram (Cicer arietinum).
(vii) Chicklingvetch (Lathyrus sativas L):
The Chicklingvetch, (Lathyrus sativus L) when becomes ready for harvest, is cut to the ground level with sickle or uprooted by hand. The harvested plants are brought to threshing floor and dried in bright sun for a week or so and after that the plants are threshed by biting with bamboo or wooden sticks or by treading under the feet of bullocks. The seeds are then cleaned by winnowing and stored them in gunny bag or in any suitable container after drying the seeds in bright sun for 2-3 days.
(viii) Blackgram (vigna mungo L):
The plants of Black gram (Vigna mungo L) bear flowers at 60 DAS and the pod matures at 90-105 DAS. The crop becomes ready for harvesting at about 90 DAS. The kharif season crop (Bhadas) and late sown crops (Aghani) are harvested in the month of August-September and November-December respectively. Harvesting is done when most of the pod becomes black and dry. In case of Kharif and pre-kharif season crop, one extra hand picking earlier to harvesting of the crop is possible.
Delay in harvesting may cause shattering of pod which effects on the yield of the crop. The harvesting is done by cutting the plants with sickle or pulling the plants from the land. The harvested plants are brought to threshing floor and dried in bright sun for 2-3 days. The threshing is done by biting the plants with sticks or treading the crop under the feet of bullock or under the wheel of tractor/power tiller. The seeds are cleaned by winnowing and the cleaned seeds, after drying in bright sun are stored in gunny bag or pusa bin/earthen pitcher.
(ix) Soyabean (Glycine max (L) Meril):
Soyabean (Glycine max L) matures within 90- 145 days according to the variety. The plant is harvested when the leaves turn yellow and finally drop and only the pod remain on the stalk. Delay in harvesting causes pre-harvest losses due to shattering. Harvesting is done either cutting the plants close to the ground with sickles or pulling out the plants. The harvested plants are carried to the threshing floor and dried in the bright sun about a week.
Threshing can be done by beating the dry plants with bamboo sticks or wooden mallets or by trampling under the feet of bullock. The seeds can be cleaned by traditional method of winnowing. The seeds are dried in bright sun for 2-3 days to bring down the moisture to 5 percent. The seeds are stored in gunny bag in ware houses having good ventilation.