The manual harvesting of rice entails using a handheld tool, such as a knife or a sickle, to cut the rice stems just below the panicle, which is the flower of the rice. For mechanical processes, harvesters use reapers that cut and gather large bunches at a time.
Outside of the United States, especially in Africa and Asia, manual harvesting is much more common. Manual harvesting requires 40 to 80 person hours per hectare; a hectare is approximately 100 acres. Although it is labor intensive, manual cutting allows workers to collect lodged crops, or rice flowers that are broken and fallen over at the time of harvest.
Rice harvesters either manually push mechanical reapers by hand or mount reapers to the front of a tractor. Reapers require flat ground to work effectively, and this makes them less compatible with paddy rice-growing systems, which are abundant in Asia.
After cutting, harvesters thresh and clean the rice either manually or mechanically. Many harvesters use a combination of both manual and mechanical methods at various stages of the harvesting process. For example, depending on growing conditions and geography, a rice farmer may choose to cut manually and thresh and clean mechanically.
In the United States, large rice farmers use combine harvesters that cut, thresh, clean and deposit the grain into bags.