Rice is the main food for about one-third to one-half of the world’s population.
A mature rice plant is usually two to six feet tall. In the beginning, one shoot
appears. It is followed by one, two, or more offshoots developing. There are at
least five or six hollow joints for each stalk, and a leaf for each joint.
leaf of the rice plant is long, pointed, flat, and stiff. The highest join of
the rice plant is called the panicle. The rice grains develop from the panicles.
(Jodon, 300) Rice is classified in the grass family Gramineae. Its genus is
Oryza and species O. sativa.
It is commonly cultivated for food in Asia. Some
varieties of rice include red rice, glutinous rice, and wild rice. (Jodon, 303)
The kernel within the grain contains most of the vitamins and minerals (298).
The kernel contains thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin (299). Rice has many
enemies that destroy a majority of the rice crops. The larvae of moth, stem
borers, live in the stems of the rice plants.
Some insects suck the plant juices
or chew the leaves. Birds, such as bobolink, Java sparrow, or paddybird, would
eat the seeds or grains. Disease causing factors such as fungi, roundworms,
viruses, and bacteria also destroy the rice plants. Blast disease is caused by
fungi which causes the panicles containing the grains to break. (Jodon, 300)
There are various types of rice grown all over the world. A majority of rice
grown is cultivated rice.
When rice is grown with water standing on the fields,
it is called lowland, wet, or irrigated rice. Rice plants grown in certain parts
of Asia, South America, and Africa are called upland, hill, or dry rice because
they are raised on elevated lands that cannot be flooded, but with plentiful
rainfall. Wild rice is grown along lake shores of Canada and the Great Lakes. It
is usually eaten by people in India. Scented rice is the most expensive because
is has long grains and tastes like popcorn when cooked. Glutinous rice is waxy
rice consumed by Asians.
It is cooked to a sticky paste and is used for cakes
and confections. (Jodon, 299) Rice was thought to have originated in southeast
Asia when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 B. C(Jodon, 303). Further
research revealed that rice was cultivated around or at the Yangtze River in
China, around 4000 to 11,500 years ago. One archaeologist, Toyama, surveyed data
on 125 samples of rice grains, plant remains, husks, and other factors from
numerous sites along the length of the Yangtze River. ;He reported that the
. . are clustered along the middle Yangtze in Hubei and Hunan
provinces. Samples from the upper and lower portions of the Yangtze River were
found to be younger, around 4,000 to 10,000 years old. ;This pattern. .
.suggests that rice cultivation originated in the middle Yangtze and spread from
there;. Archaeologists see more than a decade of excavation of the Yangtze
River and nearby sites to confirm that the Yangtze River is where rice was first
cultivated. (Normille, 309) The Greeks learned of rice when Alexander the Great
invaded India around 326 B. C. Spain was introduced to rice when it was
conquered by the Moors during the 700’s A.
D. Spain then introduced rice to
Italy, around the 1400’s. The Spanish also introduced rice to the West Indies
and South America, around the 1600’s. Rice was introduced to the United States
when a Madagascar ship docked in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. The ship
captain presented the governor with a sack of seed rice. It was then grown in
states south of the Ohio River and east of Mississippi.
(Jodon, 303) Rice is
usually grown in lowland fields divided by dirt walls (Jodon, 300) A majority of
the rice crops are grown with water standing on the fields (Jodon, 299). On
level land, these paddies and dirt walls are built in wavy or straight lines. On
hill-like land, they follow the slopes and form paddies that rise like steps.
The dirt walls are used to hold in water for the fields. (300) Cultivation of
the rice plant requires controlling the water supply and weeding the rice
fields. Water must be two to six inches deep for the seeds to germinate
After the grains germinate, the water is drained. The rice plant is
then cultivated by hand. (Jodon, 301) Besides steaming the rice for consumption,
it is also used for other products. Enriched .