The Rice Plant

The rice plant is probably native to India. There are some 10,000 varieties, differing in flavor, shape, size, and color of the grains. Under cultivation the plant looks much like barley or oats. Rice is an erect annual, about four feet (120 cm) tall, with smooth tapering leaves that are enclosed in sheaths. The leaves are one-half inch (1.3 cm) wide and up to two feet (60 cm) long. The plant has several stalks at the end of which are smaller stalks called panicles on which grow spikelets. Several grains grow within each spikelet. A grain has a hard outer covering called a hull. Beneath the hull are layers of bran that cover the endosperm (the starchy portion of the rice) and the embryo (the part of the grain from which the new plant develops).

The rice plantThe rice plant grows up to four feet tall with smooth tapering leaves enclosed in sheaths.

Two types of rice are cultivated: lowland, or wet, grown on land flooded with water; and upland, or dry, grown similarly to other grains. More than 90 per cent of the world's production consists of lowland rice. Lowland rice is not a water plant, but it will tolerate large amounts of water. The reason it is grown in water is to protect it from weeds.

Rice grows best in tropical or semitropical climates where temperatures never fall below 77 F. (25 C). However, rice will also grow well in colder regions. Usually there are two or three crops per year.