ETYM French riz, Latin oryza.
Principal cereal of the wet regions of the tropics; derived from grass of the species Oryza sativa, probably native to India and SE Asia. It is unique among cereal crops in that it is grown standing in water. The yield is very large, and rice is said to be the staple food of one-third of the world population.
Rice takes 150–200 days to mature in warm, wet conditions. During its growing period, it needs to be flooded either by the heavy monsoon rains or by adequate irrigation. This restricts the cultivation of swamp rice, the usual kind, to level land and terraces. A poorer variety, known as hill rice, is grown on hillsides. Outside Asia, there is some rice production in the Po valley of Italy, and in the US in Louisiana, the Carolinas, and California.
In Oct 1994 the International Rice Research Institute announced a new rice variety that can potentially increase rice yields by 25%. It produces more seed heads than the standard crop and each seed head contains 200 rice grains, compared with the present 100. The plant is also more compact enabling it to be planted more densely.
Rice contains 8;– 9;% protein. Brown, or unhusked, rice has valuable B-vitamins that are lost in husking or polishing. Most of the the rice eaten in the world is, however, sold in polished form.
Rice has been cultivated since prehistoric days in the East. New varieties with greatly increased protein content have been developed by gamma radiation for commercial cultivation, and yields are higher than ever before (see green revolution).
Rice husks when burned provide a silica ash that, mixed with lime, produces an excellent cement.
1 > Annual or perennial rhizomatous marsh grasses; seed used for food; straw used for paper.
2 > Grains used as food either unpolished or more often polished.
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