A culture's staple food is usually a starchy food. You can define countries by the grain their diet is built around, and in a lot of the world that grain is rice. Like wheat, oats, rye, and barley, rice is a member of the grass family, an annual whose seeds are planted in spring and ripen in fall. Rice especially resembles oats, particularly the water oat called "wild rice." Each rice seed sends up as many as 12 stalks ("tillers"), each of which may grow a seed head, so it can produce 2 to 3 times as much grain as wheat from an equal-size field. The two essentials for growing most rice varieties are plenty of clean water and a growing season with a minimum of 40 days of temperatures above 70°F.

U.S. agribusiness grows rice in large fields whose levees and contour, laid out by surveyors, are marvels of engineering. Seed and chemicals are sprayed onto the field from an airplane that covers several hundred acres a day. Huge machines till and level, combine and ditch. But in most other countries, rice is grown with hand labor in household "garden" plots or small family fields called "paddies," raising enough to feed the family and a little extra to sell. And it has been and can be grown that way in the United States, too.

more Info: For a wonderful, detailed, homey description of rice growing by a private family in their garden, read David Spiekerman's article in Organic Gardening, Dec. 1975. The most thorough and enjoyable book is Rice, a plump little hardcover (1955) by English scientist D.H. Grist, who compulsively but passionately surveys in painstaking detail the rural, manual rice-growing methods of every area of the world. Most of the other resources on growing rice either are published by agricultural schools of the rice-growing states or else are short articles in scholarly journals, and all these are addressed to large, commercial growers. But Rice in the United States: Varieties and Production (Ag Handbook No. 289, USDA, 1973) is a book-length monograph of potential value to smaller growers as well. The best source of all may be Rice by Sylvia A. Johnson (Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Co., 1985). Although supposedly a "juvenile" book, it contains valuable information about small-scale, family rice growing, translated from a Japanese original. And it's loaded with beautiful color photos of rice in various stages of growth.

Supplies for Rice Growers: Seed for upland/paddy rice (Oryza sativa), 120 days, is available from Southern Exposure. Quality will be the same as commercial brown rice. Plants yield 5 lbs./lOO sq. ft., 2,500-7,200 lbs./acre. This seed grows from Albany, New York, south to Florida. Plant in April/May and harvest in September. NOTE: Requires dehusking before cooking. Dehusking procedures for small-scale gardeners and growers are included with your order!

Continue reading here: Rice Varieties Climates and Rotations

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