| Now the
race begins again. The grower will take small samples of rice to determine
its maturity, along with
watching the number of days the rice has been planted. There is an optimal moisture point for harvest. The best quality
is obtained when the rice is harvested for the correct moisture value for
the particular variety.
Most growers are watching multiple fields, sometimes dozens of fields, and must schedule their equipment accordingly. Harvest takes several pieces of equipment: the harvester, a way to get the rice out of the field, and trucks. In the months before harvest this equipment is serviced, rebuilt and repaired - for breakdowns during harvest can be very costly since the quality of the rice can be affected.
The harvester can cost from $200-300 thousand dollars. If a grower manages several thousand acres he may have several (top left). The problem with rice is that you need to harvest it now if it is mature. Letting it get below the optimum moisture level will cost the grower money because of lower quality. A rice harvester looks a lot like any other grain harvester, but they are built tougher. Rice hulls are very abrasive and require the harvester to have unique features to put up with the wear and abuse. Rice harvesters move along at 1-4 mph depending on the conditions.
When the harvester is full (and that happens very quickly) a "bank-out" comes alongside (bottom right) to receive the harvested rice. A "bank-out" is nothing more than a powerful, four-wheel drive truck. It has high clearance and the ability to go through deep mud or climb over levees. They are also "fast" compared to the harvester. Once loaded they can scurry off the field and unload their rice into an awaiting truck.