After a long year of cultivating the land, planting, weeding and taking other management to the farm to make sure we have maximum yields, we now do our last farm practice which is harvesting. Harvesting is the final operation in crop production carried out in the farm.
Methods of crop harvesting
We have two main methods of harvesting which are:
1. Manually use of hands and done to crops as maize, dry beans as whole plant is uprooted, cabbages which involves cutting the head of the cabbage from its roots, plucking young leaves of tea, Irish potatoes are dug from the soil using a hoe or a folk jembe, kales are plucked from the stem leaving the young leaves to mature before another harvest, sorghum and millet. This method of harvesting is done by small scale farmers who have one to two hectares of land and below.
2. Extensively using machines and is done to plants like burley and wheat.
Factors that determine the process of harvesting
- Stage and timing of harvesting
The time of harvesting is determined by the use of the crop i.e. when planning to prepare silage, the maize crop is to be harvested when the maize plants are still green and before flowering while that of grain production is to be harvested after the grains are mature and partially dry in the farm.
- The market demand
The farmer should always consider what the consumers want. For example, when the demand for kales and cabbages are on a high demand, the farmer should be able to harvest and sell his produces. Also there is an instant when the concentration of the required chemicals in coffee, the ripe berries is harvested as they provide the required caffeine to consumers. Tea should be harvested when the tea leaves are young, green and fresh.
- Weather condition at the moment
Dry season is the ideal time of harvest since most crops mature this time. When the weather condition is rainy, plants like maize and beans can rot and start germinating in the farm and this will reduce the quality of the produce and also the quantity.
- Profit margin and market price
Harvesting is some crops may be delayed by the farmer while waiting for the prices of the crops to shoot up at a later date. The delay in harvesting will make the farmers realize a higher profit margin as the demand for his crops will be higher and an example is peas, onions and carrots.
Precautions during the harvesting of the crops
Due care is to be taken to make sure that the produce harvested is not affected in quality or quantity. Harvesting should be done at the right stage depending on the use of the crop.
After the farmer has harvested his crops, what are the post harvesting practices he should carry out? These are some of the post harvesting practices the farmer should carry out to increase the quality of the final product. Maize is cheaper when sold as grains, the quality and price increases when the grains are milled, packaged and graded accordingly.
This is the use of a machine, may be the use of a tractor connected to a Sheller to remove maize grains from the cobs or manually removing ground nuts from the covers.
The harvested crops are dried out in the sun to remove excess moisture.
The practice of winnowing is practiced to remove chaff from the grains.
4.Grading and sorting
In Kenya this is mainly done in major crop processing companies like Kenya Seed and others; this is the grading of grains according to their quality.
Is the application of chemical powders on the grains to prevent attacks by pests, this process is done after drying the grains and all the moisture has been removed.
This is the processing of raw material grains to something else as an end product a good example is wheat grains are milled to produce wheat flour which can be used to make pizza, donuts, chapatti and other wheat flour products.
The processed produce should be packaged into bags and well graded for ether storage or sell.
Some agricultural products are perishable and they require being prepared before they are stored so as to make them increase their expiration date.
Types of storage
- Traditional storage structures
This involves the use of traditional granaries which are cheaper and easy to build.
- Modern storage structures
Grains are bagged and stack in the store after threshing, drying and dusting of the grains.
A good modern storage structure should have the following characteristics: have an easy accessible road for easy loading and loading of the produce to the market, well ventilated spaces, remnant proof, leak proof, build in a secured way to minimize theft and pest free.
Management practices in the modern storage structure
1. Fixing of won out and broken timber and other parts.
2. To control storage pests, the grains should be dusted with powder chemicals.
3. The farmer should be able to clear any bush around the store that could be helping pest as rats to hide and attack the store at night.
4. Farmer should also fix leaking iron sheets to avoid rain water getting to the store and damaging the dry grains.