The Story Of... Rice
Almost half the world's population is dependent on rice for
their daily survival – this includes practically all of Asia, where
the cereal grain has been a staple since the earliest days of Neolithic
Rice is believed to have been domesticated nearly ten thousand years
ago in China. Related to wheat and other wild-growing cereal grasses,
the plant grows to around four feet and thrives in submerged land
in the coastal plains, tidal deltas and river basins of tropical,
semitropical, and temperate parts of the world.
||Riice is the
staple food for 50% of the world's population
When rice seedlings are 25 to 50 days old, they are transplanted
to a paddy that has been enclosed and submerged under 2 to 4 inches
of water. This water must remain in the field throughout the growing
Some academics have argued that the need for organized, reliable
irrigation in the cultivation of rice may have influenced the political
destiny of Asian cultures — significantly the rapid historical
development of a centralized Chinese state.
Rice’s importance has spread beyond central Asia. Just like
wheat, rice has become an integral element of a successful agricultural
package around the world.
So-called wild rice, which can reach 10 feet in height, grows in
shallow marshes and along the shores of streams and lakes throughout
North America. Natural stands of wild rice were a staple for Midwestern
Native Americans, but the species was never domesticated by them,
and never provided the basis of a complex, agricultural economy.
By geographic chance, America inherited a subtly different native
grass species to the Asian ancestor of modern commercial rice —
and on such coincidences the destinies of millions of people throughout
history have turned.
Where to next?
Get more stories about crops including Corn,
Wheat or Sorghum.