Did You Know?

A Little Note About... Traditional Harvesting

Hand Harvesting

Prior to the advent of mechanisation in the 18th and 19th century, corn was harvested by hand. It was cut, either with a scythe or sickle, gathered into sheaves, stacked to dry, then threshed with flails to separate the corn from the stalks. The stalks became straw, either for animal feed, bedding (human or animal) or thatching.


The mixture of ears of corn and corn husk which resulted from the threshing had to be separated. This process is known as winnowing. The husks are far lighter than the ears of corn, so if a mixture of corn and husk is thrown up into a wind, the husks blow away, and the corn falls back down. A breeze strong enough to blow the husk away, but let the ears of corn fall is still called a 'winnowing wind'.

Mechanised Threshing, Reaping & Binding

Mechanisation was first applied to the threshing process when Andrew Meikle invented the drum thresher, still an integral part of all combine harvesters to this day, in 1784. Subsequently a horse drawn reaper (McCormack, 1834) and binder (1858), which cut the corn and tied it into sheaves automatically, was developed.

Combined Harvester

Ultimately, the operations of cutting, threshing and winnowing were combined into one self-propelled machine, known as the Combined Harvester, or, more colloquially, the 'Combine'. In this machine, the corn is cut at one end, and the ears are loaded directly into a hopper, and hence into a tractor-drawn trailer, at the other.