Hand harvesting is a major constraint to lentil production in North Africa and West Asia. This study, in north Syria, compared hand harvesting, cutting by mower (double-knife) and cutting with angled blades on two lentil cultivars differing in standing ability and using two sowing methods (broadcast and drilled) both with and without the use of a heavy bar for field levelling in the 1984/85 season. Seven treatments were selected for testing in five locations in the 1985/86 season; and in the 1986/87 and 1987/88 seasons, agronomic comparisons of mowing v. hand harvesting were conducted on five farmers' fields.
Both machine methods of harvesting resulted in significant harvest losses compared with hand harvesting. The angled blades performed well on a ridged broadcast crop, but tended to mix soil with the harvested crop. The loss of straw associated with harvesting by mower was reduced by levelling the seedbed after sowing. The superiority in seed yield of cultivar 78S26002 over the local cultivar increased from 9% when hand harvested to 39% with mowing because of its lower likelihood of lodging. In the 1986/87 and 1987/88 seasons, the seed yield from a hand harvest was 1650 kg/ha compared with 1508 kg/ha following harvest by mower, representing a loss of 8·6% from mechanization. The corresponding straw loss was 16·6% of the mean from a hand harvest of 2140 kg straw/ha. However, the harvest losses from mechanical harvesting by mower were compensated for by the reduced labour costs compared with hand harvesting.