The starchy grain of this plant, used as a staple food throughout the world.
* Prior to planting, minimal soil manipulation is needed to prepare for cultivation. If the rice will be grown on a hilly terrain, the area must be leveled into terraces. Paddies are leveled and surrounded by dikes or levees with the aide of earth-moving equipment. Then, the fields are plowed before planting. In the United States, rice is most often planted on river deltas and plowing is accomplished with a disk plow, an off-set disk plow, or a chisel. Adequate irrigation of the terrace or river delta bed is required and accomplished by leveling and by controlling water with pumps, reservoirs, ditches, and streams.
* Rice seeds are soaked prior to planting.
* Depending on the level of mechanization and the size of the planting, seeding occurs in three ways. In many Asian countries that havenâ€™t mechanized their farming practices, seeds are sown by hand. After 30-50 days of growth, the seedlings are transplanted in bunches from nursery beds to flooded paddies. Seeds can also be sown using a machine called a drill that places the seed in the ground. Larger enterprises often found in the United States sow rice seed by airplane. Low-flying planes distribute seed onto already flooded fields. An average distribution is 90-100 lb per acre (101-111 kg per hectare), creating roughly 15-30 seedlings per square foot.
* Once the plants have reached full growth (approximately three months after planting) and the grains begin to ripenâ€”the tops begin to droop and the stem yellowsâ€”the water is drained from the fields. As the fields dry, the grains ripen further and harvesting is commenced.
* Depending on the size of the operation and the amount of mechanization, rice is either harvested by hand or machine. By hand, rice stalks are cut by sharp knives or sickles. This practice still occurs in many Asian countries. Rice can also be harvested by a mechanized hand harvester or by a tractor/horse-drawn machine that cuts and stacks the rice stalks. In the US, most operations use large combines to harvest and threshâ€”separate the grain from the stalkâ€”the rice stalks.
* If the rice has been harvested by hand or by a semi-automated process, threshing is completed by flailing the stalks by hand or by using a mechanized thresher.
* Before milling, rice grains must be dried with artificially heated air or, more often, with the help of naturally occurring sunshine. Rice grains are left on racks in fields to dry out naturally. Once dried, the rice grain, now called rough rice, is ready for processing.