Rice growing

Rice growing is a job for many people in Southeast Asian countries.

In mountainous areas steps called terraces are cut into the hillside to make rice fields like this area in China. Photo©iStock

In mountainous areas steps called terraces are cut into the hillside to make rice fields like this area in China. Photo©iStock

Rice is the main crop grown in Thailand and Indonesia, and in other Southeast Asian countries. In many places in the world, rice is the staple, or main, food.

Rice is a plant that requires plenty of water and heat. It is well suited to the tropical climate of places like Indonesia and Thailand, where it grows well if the rains are plentiful. In Thailand, and in Bali in Indonesia, and on the island of Madagascar it is possible to grow two or more rice crops each year.

Ploughing paddy fields and planting rice

Rice paddies in Bali, Indonesia. Photo©iStock

Rice paddies in Bali, Indonesia. Photo©iStock

Rice fields are called paddy fields. They have low walls around them because they have to be flooded with water. In hilly areas, the paddy fields are terraced down the hillsides.

Before planting,  the soil is ploughed in order to stir up the soil ready for planting the seedlings. In Indonesia, banteng, or native oxen, pull the wooden ploughs. In some other Asian countries, such as Thailand, water buffalo pull the ploughs through the muddy, flooded paddy field. 

A farmer in China ploughing a paddy field with a buffalo pulling the plough. Photo©iStock

A farmer in China ploughing a paddy field with a buffalo pulling the plough. Photo©iStock

In small Asian farms, the rice seedlings are planted by hand. Photo©iStock

In small Asian farms, the rice seedlings are planted by hand. Photo©iStock

After ploughing, the paddies are flooded and the seedlings are planted by hand in neat rows about twelve centimetres apart. While the rice is growing in the paddy fields, rains keep the paddies flooded for about four months. In some places, water from rivers is run into the paddies through channels dug in the ground. This is called irrigation.

Harvesting rice

Rice grains ready for harvesting

Rice grains ready for harvesting

Several weeks later, flowers appear on the plants and then the plants produce grains in husks (a coating over each grain). In late summer, watering is stopped and the rice is harvested.

In many small Asian farms like this one in Vietnam the rice is cut by hand and made into bundles. Photo©iStock

In many small Asian farms like this one in Vietnam the rice is cut by hand and made into bundles. Photo©iStock

Workers each use a sharp knife and cut off the stalks at ground level. The rice is bundled and left to dry in the sun.

Threshing and winnowing rice

In many areas of Asia the threshing is done by hand. In this farm, bundles of rice are beaten onto the ground and the grains fall off. Photo©iStock

In many areas of Asia the threshing is done by hand. In this farm, bundles of rice are beaten onto the ground and the grains fall off. Photo©iStock

The rice is threshed to separate the grains from the stalks.

To separate the rice grains from the husks, the rice is winnowed. To winnow, workers toss rice grains on woven trays or baskets. The heavy grains fall back into the tray and the husks blow away. The rice is then dried and can then be stored.

Rice grains are tossed into the air to let the husk, or coating, fly away. These women are Thai. Photo©iStock

Rice grains are tossed into the air to let the husk, or coating, fly away. These women are Thai. Photo©iStock

More facts about rice

Rice is a good food. It contains thiamin, iron, phosphorus, potassium and folic acid, all of which our bodies need for good health.

China grows the most rice in the world, followed by India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Thailand. Thailand is the biggest exporter of rice.

Rice in Australia

Rice is grown in Australia using a different method from Asian countries. The first commercial rice crop in Australia was grown in the Murrumbidgee area of New South Wales in 1924.

Read about Australian rice

http://www.rga.org.au/the-rice-industry.aspx

Watch a video about rice growing from planting to harvesting

Watch a video about how big rice farms use machinery to grow rice crops:

http://splash.abc.net.au/home#!/media/30285/growing-rice