Rice is one of the world’s most important foods. There are an estimated 140,000 varieties of cultivated rice grown in a range of environments, from terraced hills to rain-fed lowlands. In some regions there may be two or even three crops a year. Use of improved seeds and irrigation can increase yields. Grains vary in size and stickiness from the long and fragrant Indian basmati and Thai jasmine rice to the short sticky Japanese sushi and Italian arborio rice. The colours may be brown, black, red, green, white or the Vitamin A fortified golden rice.
Traditional or subsistence farming is labour-intensive as planting, weeding, managing pests, harvesting and preparing rice is done without machines.
Before planting the paddy, the ground is prepared using a mattock, a water buffalo-drawn plough or a small mechanised plough. Irrigation channels and retaining walls are repaired.
Rice seeds are first planted in a nursery. Later, people undertake the backbreaking work of transferring them to the paddies.As the rice seedlings grow they need to be protected from pests.
Fish, frogs or turtles may also be farmed in the water and provide a source of protein and income.
The rice paddy goes yellow when the rice is ripe. The stalks are then cut roughly at ground level and bundled together.
Rice grains are threshed (beaten) to separate them from the stalks, then winnowed so that the light-weight chaff is blown away from the heavier seeds.
Rice must be very dry before it can be stored. It might be spread out on sheets of plastic or on concrete in the sun.