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Harvest is the process of gathering mature crops from the fields. Reaping is the cutting of grain or pulse for harvest, typically using a scythe, sickle, or reaper. The harvest marks the end of the growing season, or the growing cycle for a particular crop, and social importance of this event makes it the focus of seasonal celebrations such as a harvest festival, found in many religions. On smaller farms with minimal mechanization, harvesting is the most labor-intensive activity of the growing season. On large, mechanized farms, harvesting utilizes the most expensive and sophisticated farm machinery, like the combine harvester. Harvesting in general usage includes an immediate post-harvest handling, all of the actions taken immediately after removing the crop—cooling, sorting, cleaning, packing—up to the point of further on-farm processing, or shipping to the wholesale or consumer market.
Harvest commonly refers to grain and produce, but also has other uses. In addition to fish and timber, the term harvest is also used in reference to harvesting grapes for wine. Within the context of irrigation, water harvesting refers to the collection and run-off of rainwater for agricultural or domestic uses. Instead of harvest, the term exploit is also used, as in exploiting fisheries or water resources. Energy harvesting is the process by which energy (such as solar power, thermal energy, wind energy, salinity gradients and kinetic energy) is captured and stored. Body harvesting, or cadaver harvesting, is the process of collecting and preparing cadavers for anatomical study. In a similar sense, organ harvesting is the removal of tissues or organs from a donor for purposes of transplanting.
Harvesting or Domestic Harvesting in Canada refers to hunting, fishing and plant gathering by First Nations, Métis and Inuit in discussions of aboriginal or treaty rights. For example, in the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, "Harvesting means gathering, hunting, trapping or fishing..." Similarly, in the Tlicho Land Claim and Self Government Agreement "'Harvesting' means, in relation to wildlife, hunting, trapping or fishing and, in relation to plants or trees, gathering or cutting."
- American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed. ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 2000. ISBN 0-618-08230-1.
- Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement see Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website
- Tlicho Agreement see Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website
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