Rice is a tropical cereal, but it also grows in some temperate regions with a warmer climate.

It is the second most important cereal in the world after maize. In the tropics it’s the primary cereal for human consumption. Rice is the main staple food for half the world’s population.

Rice is often grown in fields submerged in water. Some varieties are grown on dry land.

In 2010 the estimated world production (of paddy) was 672,015,587 Metric Tons (source FAOSTAT), which corresponds to about 97 kg per person (in 2010 the world had about 6.9 billion persons).


   Oryza sativa
   Asian rice
   Riz asiatique



Basic information and facts


Rice has two major subspecies which are called Japonica and Indica. Japonica is a sticky, short grained type, usually cultivated in dry fields. Indica is a non-sticky and long-grained type and is mostly grown in submerged fields. Both types have many different varieties.


Rice has its origin in Asia. The Indica type originates from eastern India, Myanmar and Thailand. The Japonica type come from southern China.


It is the main staple food for many people in East and South Asia, Middle East, Latin America, West Indies. It is grown throughout the tropics with main production in China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.


This is a domesticated plant belonging to the family of the grasses. It is usually grown as an annual plant, but in the tropics it can be grown as a perennial.
The plant starts as a seedling (one stem) but because of tillering during the vegetative stage, the plant will eventually produce many stems (tillers) which each can produce a panicle with seeds.


At the tip of the stem the plant develops a panicle, which may contain up to 200 flowers, each producing a rice seed. As the plant has many tillers, one plant can produce thousands of seeds.


The grains are usually 5 to 12 mm long and 2 to 3 mm wide, depending on the variety.

Climate and weather:

Rice prefers a tropical or warm climate, with a lot of rainfall. But if irrigation water is available rice can also be grown in drier areas or during dry season.


The plant is usually self-pollinating, but cross pollination by wind is possible.


Depending on the variety and soil, rice plants are usually between 1 and 1.8 meter tall.

Type of soil:

Rice is usually grown on heavier soils that have a good water holding capacity.

Growth rate:

Some short duration varieties can mature in 100 days, but medium and long-duration varieties require 130 to 150 days.

Spacing (close range)

Common plant spacing is 20×20 cm. This is the distance that seedlings are transplanted (often 2 or 3 seedlings together).

Spacing (wide range)

25×25 cm


Rice is grown from seed. It can either be sown in a seedbed, followed by transplanting after a period of 20-40 days, or it can be broadcasted. Transplanting is labor intensive, but has the advantage of plants growing in rows which facilitates weeding.

Insect pests:

Quite a number of insects are known to attack rice including the brown planthopper, rice gall midge, rice bug, rice leafroller, rice weevils and stemborer.


Several bacterial and fungal diseases can reduce the productivity. Common diseases are bacterial blight, bacterial leaf streak, sheath blight, tungro, rice blast, and brown spot disease.

Grain development:

The grain filling stage can be separated in a ‘milky stage’ ( a milky white substance accumulates in the seed), a dough stage (the milky substance changes and looks like bread dough), and the ‘maturity stage’ (when the grain is firm).


Grain is harvested by cutting the stems, followed by threshing to separate the seed from the husks. In large scale rice production combine harvester machines are used.

Brown versus white:

Brown rice is unmilled rice of which only the husk has been removed.
White rice is milled rice that has had its husk, bran, and germ removed. It is polished after milling, which gives the seed a bright white and shiny appearance.
Brown and white rice are similar in amounts of calories, carbohydrates, and protein. However, brown rice is more nutritious because the bran and germ contain several vitamins and dietary minerals.


Most rice is eaten as a staple food, usually boiled, sometimes first boiled and then fried.
Rice flour (rice powder) is used as a thickening agent or to make rice noodles or desserts.
Rice can also be used to make alcoholic drinks such as rice wine.

Proverbs and Quotes

  • It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. (Mother Teresa)
  • Eating rice cakes is like chewing on a foam coffee cup, only less filling. (Dave Berry)
  • A diet that consists predominantly of rice leads to the use of opium, just as a diet that consists predominantly of potatoes leads to the use of liquor. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  • Rice is a beautiful food. It is beautiful when it grows, precision rows of sparkling green stalks shooting up to reach the hot summer sun. It is beautiful when harvested, autumn gold sheaves piled on diked, patchwork paddies. It is beautiful when, once threshed, it enters granary bins like a (flood) of tiny seed-pearls. It is beautiful when cooked by a practiced hand, pure white and sweetly fragrant. (Shizuo Tsuji)
  • If you plant rice, rice will grow. If you plant fear, fear will grow. (Caine, Kung Fu)

Did you know that?

  • There are many varieties of rice. Many are white, but rice can have many different colors, including: white, brown, black, red and purple.
  • Rice farming started probably around 5000 BC.
  • Rice is thrown to newly married couples as a symbol of fertility and to bring them luck.
  • Rice is the staple food of half the world’s population.
  • Parboiled rice is rice that it is steamed under pressure before it is milled. This process makes the grain harder and helps maintaining several important vitamins and minerals.
  • Rice in a husk is called ‘paddy’, and rice fields are often called paddy fields.


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Crop categories

Food crops
Tropical crops
Subtropical crops
Staple food
Alcoholic drinks



Farmer in Bangladesh drying rice harvest

Rice field


Rice fields in Bali

Jhum rice in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

Jhum rice in Bangladesh

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