How to Grow Rice: A Guide to Growing Rice
Rice is a starchy grain that can be grown and harvested at home by creating a flooded environment with warm and sunny conditions.
A Brief History of Rice
The first domestication of rice may have occurred in China along the Yangtze River roughly 10,000 years ago in 8000 BCE. Some archaeological evidence may suggest that China had rice fields as early as 2300 BCE, and that Indonesia and Thailand had rice farms at this time as well.
Rice most likely came to Western countries through the traders and voyagers of the Columbian Exchange in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Meanwhile, Africa developed and domesticated their own species of rice called African rice (Oryza glaberrima), though this variety didn’t gain as much popularity globally.
Read also: Interesting facts about rice farming in Nigeria
6 Types of Rice
There are several varieties of rice, many of which you can find at the grocery store:
- Long-grain rice: A long and thin grain that becomes light and fluffy when cooked.
- Medium-grain rice: A grain that is only somewhat longer than it is wide and becomes moist, tender, and chewy when cooked.
- Short-grain rice: A short and stocky grain that will stick together or clump when cooked.
- Glutinous rice: Also called sticky rice or sweet rice, this variety is a type of short-grain often used in desserts.
- Aromatic rice: A type of rice that has a fragrance, such as jasmine rice or basmati rice.
- Arborio rice: A type of short- or medium-grain rice that becomes creamy when cooked.
Read also: Suitable conditions required for the cultivation of rice
7 Steps for Planting Rice Seeds
Rice is considered a semi-aquatic plant, which means that it will require a flooded area or constant irrigation to grow. You can create the perfect environment for growing rice plants at home with this step-by-step guide:
- Plan around the rice-growing season. The optimal growing season for rice is from March through October, and the rice will take roughly six months to grow until it’s ready to be harvested.
- Purchase seeds from a local nursery or gardening store. You can find most common rice grain varieties at any local farming store or nursery. You’ll want at least 1–2 ounces of seeds.
- Soak the seeds. Fill a bucket with non-chlorinated water and immerse the seeds for 24–36 hours, or until germination begins with small rootlets growing out from the seed.
- Prepare your soil. Rice will grow best in semi-acidic soil that has very little drainage. Heavy clay or loam will retain water well, and you can use mulch, compost, or fertilizer-rich potting soil to create the right environment for growth.
- Prepare your area for planting. Rice will grow best in full sun and in a waterlogged environment similar to a flooded field. You can grow your rice in gallon buckets, a raised bed like a garden box, or you can create long troughs in the soil in your garden bed that can be filled with water. If you are planting your seeds in a bucket or box, make sure your soil level is at least 6 inches high.
- Plant the seeds. Plant your soaked and germinated seeds in the soil roughly a half-inch deep and with around 6 inches of space between each seed.
- Flood your area. Fill your growing area with water until the soil has saturated and there is at least 2 inches of water above the soil. Your growing area needs to be constantly wet for the seeds to grow, so make sure your water isn’t draining too quickly.
Read also: Factors needed to grow rice
How to Care for Rice Grains
There are a few things you can do as your rice grows to keep it healthy:
- Make sure your soil is constantly wet. Check back regularly to add water to your soil to keep it flooded. Try to keep the water level at two inches above the soil when first growing and up to four inches when the rice stalks grow above six inches tall. Never let the soil dry out.
- Try to keep your seeds warm. If the nights get chilly, move your plants indoors or try covering them to trap warmth inside.
- Remove any weeds that appear. Your rice will be growing for many months and weeds might spring up during that time. Make sure to uproot any weeds to keep the area clear for growth.
5 Tips for Harvesting Rice
You can harvest your homegrown rice crop by following these simple steps:
- Check that your rice is ready for harvest. Over the course of four to six months after first planting, the rice may have grown to around 3–4 feet tall, and sometimes higher. You will know it’s ready for harvest when the rice grains at the top of the stalk, called the seedheads, are no longer green and have turned a golden brown.
- Cut and dry the stalks. Cut the stalks at the top, right below where the clusters of rice grains (called the panicles) are located. Place these in the sun and allow them to dry for one to two weeks, or until they are completely dried out.
- Remove the grains from the cluster. In rice production, the step when you remove grains from the cluster is called threshing. You can remove each grain individually, or a faster method is to place the panicle cluster in a bag and beat them against a wall or hard surface until they separate and collect in the bag.
- Roast in the oven. Place the grains on a baking sheet. Roast at 180°F for at least an hour, or until they turn a darker golden brown. Let them cool afterward.
- Remove the husks. This step is called hulling, in which you remove the grain from their outer husks. You can rub them between your hands or use a mortar and pestle to grind and separate them. You will now have your own rice grains similar to what you would find in a grocery store.
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