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Rice Cultivation

Rice crosses all cultural boundaries and is a food that many people count on for their daily meals. It is easy enough to just head to the grocery store and buy rice. However, in order to have a true appreciation for this diet staple it is important to understand how rice is planted and grown.

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Rice is generally grown in warmer regions. It will not survive if the temperature is too low. Rice requires a minimum of 10° C. Yet there are varieties of rice that can be grown at high altitudes, and it is not uncommon in some regions to see rice paddies terraced up the sides of hills and mountains.

It is possible, but generally not efficient to grow rice in a green house.1 It usually done on an experimental basis in order to minimize variables in the growing process. Rice seeds are placed in a pot and covered with compost. The pots are kept very warm and slightly damp. This is done to ease the process of germination, which may take a few weeks to a month.

When the seeds germinate (can take two weeks to several months) it is time for them to go into a larger pot. If they do not have a large enough environment then the rice planting will fail. They should be placed deep down into the soil to ensure that the roots can take hold and become strong and vital.

Green house growth requires plenty of water and sunlight. It should also receive a moderate amount of fertilizer - too much will burn the plant and too little will result in poor quality plants. The plants should be supported by twigs or stakes. The grass stems grow to be over three feet ( a meter) high. Tiny flowers on the plant indicate healthy rice. Since there is no wind inside a greenhouse, it is important make sure pollen spreads from one plant to another. This can be done by running your fingers through the flowers on successive batches of plants.

The rice pots should continue to be well-watered until the grains begin to mature, when they should be kept much drier in order to help the grains to ripen more quickly. Harvest the grains when ripe.

Rice farming is done on a subsistence basis in some countries and on a huge scale in other. In the U.S. most rice is grown in the Southeast and in California. In developed countries rice production is highly automated. In the New South Wales Riverina area the land is leveled using laser guided bulldozers. With leveled fields water use can be minimized and production maximized. The seed is cast in the rice bays by air planes using satellite guidance technologies. The seed is soaked for 24 hours and then dried. When cast over the wet beds it settles to the bottom and takes hold of the soil. Within ten days it is shooting through the water's surface. Plants are sown to produce 300 plants per square meter in 5 - 20 centimeters of water.

Chemical insecticides and herbicides are used up until the last 100 days of growth. This insures the maximum yield but virtually no exposure to chemicals by humans. The plants continue to grow for several months. They have hairy roots, strong central stems, and tillers on which the flowers grow. In the fall, March and April in Australia, the beds are drained and dried out and the grains are harvested using huge machines built specifically for the purpose.2

Subsistence farmers have to take somewhat of a different approach. The first step is to prepare the soil. This means tilling the land so that the soil is very loose. When the soil is loose it allows for the roots of the rice plants to grow and expand. Once the soil is tilled, rice farmers then spread manure or other fertilizer. This gives the plants the nutrients they need to grow large and healthy.

When the soil is ready, farmers start to plant the rice seedlings. This is usually done in "paddies" where the water is no more than ankle deep. These seedlings are usually allowed to germinate in other environments before they are planted on the farmland. The plants are kept under water for several months using irrigation techniques. If these rice seedlings are healthy and will spread their roots far until they are very strong rice plants. In regions where rice has been cultivated for centuries pest and weed control can be a difficult process without the help of chemicals. Much of this is done by hand and is very labor intensive.

When flowering is complete and the grains have grown, water is drained from the rice paddies in order to let the rice grains mature. The maturing process is speeded up by the stress put on the plant by the lack of water. When the grains have matured the farmer can begin to harvest them. Once cut, the rice is threshed to separate it from its hull. Then it is winnowed by tossing it in the air above a sheet or mat in a light breeze. It can then be stored for later use or brought to market.

Next Page: Rice Preparation

1. Plant Cultures also has excellent step by step instructions for how to grow rice in a greenhouse.
2. Rice Growers Association of Australia

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