Chew on this | Sep 08, 2023

How Does Rice Grow?

Rice is widely eaten worldwide, but did you know we grow rice here in the U.S.? Most U.S. rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas!

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Rice is widely eaten worldwide, but did you know we grow rice here in the U.S.? Most U.S. rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas!

Fast Facts on Rice Grown in the U.S.

  • The U.S. is the fifth largest exporter of rice.
  • Arkansas rice growers grow 40% of the rice eaten here in the U.S.
  • 80% of the rice eaten in the U.S. is grown right here!

So, how does rice grow?

Farmers prep their fields to ensure the land is smooth and ready for planting. Rice growing requires constant irrigation because rice plants thrive in a lot of water. This is why you may have seen pictures of rice in flooded fields! Farmers plant in the spring (usually between February and May) using grain drills or airplanes.

After planting, farmers decide on the best way to water the fields. The traditional irrigation method is to flood the field, which, in addition to supplying necessary water, stops soil erosion and manages weeds. Depending on the rice variety, rice plants grow to three to four feet over an average of 120 days.

Once the rice plant has matured, with grain growing at the top of long panicles, branching clusters of flowers, the fields are drained. Then, plants are harvested with a combine harvester where the rice grain is separated from the stalk. This happens sometime between July and November.

After harvest, rice is taken to special facilities to dry out so it can be stored. The next step is milling! Rice straight from the field, or rough rice, has an in-edible hull that covers the edible kernel inside. This hull is removed at the mill, and brown rice is left. Brown rice kernels include bran layers. To make white rice, rice is further processed in the mill to remove the bran layers. Now, the rice is ready to be packaged and sent to the store for consumers to buy!

Looking for more resources to teach students about rice? Check out these lessons from USA Rice and Louisiana Agriculture in the Classroom. 

See harvest in action and meet a Texas rice farm in this video from Texas Farm Bureau! 

Sources:

https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/rice/rice-sector-at-a-glance/

https://www.usarice.com/thinkrice/home

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