The Harvesting Process

Commercial grain fields are harvested by a combine. This machine cuts the grain stalks close to the ground, then threshes the seed heads. The bare stalks — straw — are deposited on the field in straight lines to await baling.

A baling machine is pulled over the field, sweeping the lines of straw up into a chamber where a mechanical plunger compacts the loose straw into thin square flakes. (You'll hear a lot about flakes later on.) A number of these flakes are pressed together in the chamber and mechanically tied with twine into a bale. The bale is either redeposited onto the field or kicked into a trailing wagon. Different baling machines produce bales of differing quality. Even bale quality from the same machine can vary dramatically, depending on the sharpness of the cutting blades and the adjustments made for the tightness of the strings.

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