In order to solve the problem of labor shortage in double-season rice production areas, machine transplanting, as opposed to manual transplanting, has become the more popular alternative method in rice cultivation. However, the most existing late rice cultivars are not suitable for machine double-season rice cultivation due to their long duration of growth. Therefore, based on the previous studies we chose early season rice cultivars to meet the needs of machine double-season rice cultivation. In this study, field experiments were conducted during the late season in 2015 and 2016 in Liuyang County, Hunan Province, China. Grain yield and yield-related traits were compared among eight early-season cultivars (Liangyou 6, Lingliangyou 211, Lingliangyou 268, Zhuliangyou 819, Xiangzaoxian 32, Xiangzaoxian 42, Zhongjiazao 17, and Zhongzao 39) in 2015 and four cultivars (Lingliangyou 268, Zhuliangyou 819, Zhongjiazao 17, and Zhongzao 39) in 2016, selected from the highest yielding cultivars grown in 2015. Lingliangyou 268 produced 8-44% higher grain yield than did the other cultivars except Zhongjiazao17 in 2015. This higher grain yield was driven by grain weight and aboveground biomass. The greater aboveground biomass in Lingliangyou 268 was mainly attributed to higher apparent radiation use efficiency (aboveground biomass/incident solar radiation). Our study suggests that improvement in grain weight and apparent radiation use efficiency were critical to the high grain yield of early-season rice cultivars grown in late season under machine transplanting conditions.