Arkansas Rice: Estimating Harvest Loss

Combine transfers a load of rice into a cart. Photo: Bruce Schultz, LSU AgCenter

Each year there are questions about estimating rice yield lost out of the combine. Table 3 provides the straightforward answer, but it’s not that simple. The combine doesn’t spread residue as wide as the header, so simply counting the grains in a square foot behind the machine will overestimate loss.

To be most accurate, you need to count the number of kernels in a strip the width of the combine (Table 4). For instance, with a 30 ft header, you would need to count the kernels on the ground in a strip 30 ft long and 4 inches wide (which amounts to 10 square feet). Divide the kernels counted in that strip by 10 to get your number per square foot.

A simpler, and faster, approach is to think of the header width in sections. For a 30-foot header, think of it as having three 10-foot sections. Take a single square foot count in the center of each of these 10- foot sections, total the numbers and divide by three. This will give you the number per square foot and capture areas to the side of and directly behind the combine, while taking a third of the time as the traditional method.

Remember to count kernels on the ground in an area not yet harvested so that you account for shattered grain that isn’t being lost from the harvesting process. Subtract any grain already on the ground from your harvest loss estimates.

Converting rice field loss counts into bushels per acre.

Number of Kernels Per Square Foot Average Field Loss (Bu/A)
25 1.3
50 2.5
75 3.7
100 5.1
125 6.4
250 12.8

Dimensions for field loss estimate.

Sample Area to Obtain 10 Square Feet Across Header Width
Number of Kernels Per Square Foot Average Field Loss (Bu/A)
20 20 ft x 6 in
25 25 ft x 4.8 in
30 30 ft x 4 in
35 35 ft x 3.4 in


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