Sunwhite | How is Rice Grown
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Paddy hero

How is rice grown?

Step 1 - Sowing

This video introduces John – a SunRice® rice grower. It provides an overview of rice production and an insight into sowing rice seeds. Sowing typically occurs in October and early November for the Australian rice industry, especially for SunRice’s key sushi rice varieties.

Step 2 – Growing

The warm, sunny weather and lush, green rice fields will transport you to the fertile Riverina region in NSW, Australia, as we check in with John on the progress of his Koshihikari rice crop.

Step 3 - Harvest

John’s Koshihikari rice is now ready for harvesting, a process that will take him three weeks. Learn about the hygiene, cleaning and storage processes that prevent cross-contamination and ensures that the “koshi” rice maintains its premium quality.

History of rice

Rice is considered one of the most popular foods in the world. Humans have eaten rice for thousands of years and is the main source of nourishment for more than half the world’s population today. Plus, it's delicious.

The domestication of rice is considered one of the most important developments in human history. Beginning in China around 2500 BC, its cultivation initially spread throughout Sri Lanka and India. There are some reports the crop may have been introduced to Greece and the Mediterranean by returning members of Alexander the Great’s expedition to India around 344-324 BC. From China across to ancient Greece, from Persia to Africa, rice migrated across the continents and around the world.

In many cultures, rice is a symbol of life and fertility. It’s a staple food that partners perfectly with red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, tofu and vegetables and easily absorbs the flavour of stocks and sauces.

Where Did Rice Originate?

Rice was first cultivated thousands of years ago in Asia, in a broad arc stretching from eastern India through to Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos, northern Vietnam and southern China.

It's one of the oldest harvested crops known to man. Rice grains discovered at an excavation in South Korea in 2003 are said to be the earliest known domesticated rice. Carbon dating showed the grains to be around 15,000 years old – 3,000 years earlier than the previously accepted date for the origin of rice cultivation in China around 12,000 years ago.

The first written account of rice is found in a record on rice planting authorised by a Chinese emperor in 2800 BC. From China across to ancient Greece, from Persia to Africa, rice migrated across the continents and around the world.

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Interesting Rice Facts

  • Rice is the second highest worldwide production after maize (corn).

  • Since maize is mostly grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is arguably the most important grain for human consumption.

  • There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that grow on every continent except on Antarctica.

  • Rice is considered by many cultures to be a symbol of life and fertility, which is why rice was traditionally thrown at weddings.

  • Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia.

  • Rice, a monocot, is normally grown as an annual plant, although in tropical areas it can survive as a perennial and can produce crops for up to 30 years.

  • The rice plant can grow to 1–1.8 m (3.3–5.9 ft) tall, occasionally more depending on the variety and soil fertility.

  • Depending on how it is cooked, rice does not have any cholesterol and barely has any fat or sodium.

  • Rice is naturally gluten free.

  • The nutrient value of rice depends on the variety and cooking method.

  • Rice has been found in medieval Chinese walls where it was added for strength and stability.

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Is Rice a Grain?

Rice is a cereal, related to other cereal grass plants such as wheat, oats and barley.

It completes its entire life cycle within a year, from planting to harvesting. It's also semi-aquatic, which means it can grow partly on land and partly submerged in water. Most cultivated rice comes from either the Oryza sativa, O. glaberrima, or O. rufipogon species.

Rice plants start their life as tiny grains sown in irrigated fields. They grow to become green, grassy plants about 60-100 cm tall. Each plant contains many heads full of tiny rice grains that turn golden when the rice plant is ready to harvest.

Rice is generally divided into two types of species: Indica (adapted to tropical climates like South-East Asia) and Japonica (adapted to more temperate climates like in Australia). The Australian rice industry produces mostly Japonica types of rice, although some Indica characteristics have been introduced through a rice-breeding program.

What Is in a Grain of Rice?

The rice grain is made of three main layers - the hull or husk, the bran and germ, and the inside kernel, or endosperm.

The hull: The rice hull or husk is a hard, protective outer layer that people cannot eat. The hull is removed when the grain is milled.

Rice bran: Underneath the hull is the bran and germ layer, which is a thin layer of skin. This layer gives brown rice its colour. White rice is just brown rice with the bran and germ layer removed.

Endosperm: The endosperm is the inside of the rice grain, which is hard and white and contains lots of starch.

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Rice Growing Process

Rice growing

Rice plant grows a main stem and a number of tillers. Each rice plant will produce four or five tillers. Every tiller grows a flowering head or panicle. The panicle produces the rice grains.

Rice crops are grown in 5 - 25cm of water depending on growing conditions.

Rice Harvester

Once harvested, the rice is commonly named paddy rice. This is the name given to unmilled rice with its protective husk in place.

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Rice Processing

Rice mill

Australian rice mills use some of the most advanced equipment and are some of the largest and most efficient in the world.

Milling rice steps

Step one – Removal of hard protective husk

The rice husk is the protective layer surrounding the grain. Once removed, the rice grain is packaged as brown rice. Because it still contains the rice germ and outer bran layers, Brown Rice contains more fibre and vitamins than White Rice.

Step two – Removal of the germ and brown layers.

Gentle milling removes the germ and bran layers from the grain to expose a white starch centre. The polished white starch centre is what we know as white rice.

Rice By-Products

By–products from the growing and processing of rice create many valuable new products. Rice husks, rice stubble, rice bran, broken rice and rice straw are used as common ingredients in horticultural, livestock, industrial, household, building and food products.

Rice husks

The rice husk is the hard, protective shell on the grain. The removal of the rice husk is the first stage of rice milling. Rice husks are the main by-product of rice production. For every one million tonnes of paddy rice harvested, about 200 000 tonnes of rice husk is produced. Rice husks are used in 3 main ways:

• raw - animal bedding, growing seedlings, improving mulch for gardens.

• burnt - the resulting ash is valuable for many industries, including steel making, gardening and building.

• ground and processed – is used in stock feed, potting mixes and pet litter.

Rice stubble

Rice stubble is the stalks and roots of the rice plant left in the ground after it has been harvested.

Rice stubble is very thick and difficult to deal with. Livestock graze on recently harvested paddocks and eat some of the rice stubble. A portion of the remaining stubble is usually burnt off and a winter cereal crop, such as wheat, is planted. On some rice farms, rice stubble is left to break down naturally and is incorporated into the soil, to improve the soil structure.

Rice bran

Rice bran is the outer layer of the brown rice grain. The rice bran is removed during the milling process if white rice is to be produced.

Stabilised rice bran is sold as a health food in supermarkets and health food shops, or to food manufacturers who use it as an ingredient in foods such as crispbreads and breakfast cereals.

Unstabilised rice bran can be used in stockfeed and for other animal and industrial products.

Broken rice grains

Unfortunately, during the rice milling process some of the rice grains break. Most of these broken grains are removed from the milling process. The larger broken rice grains are used in pet foods and stock feed, or breakfast cereals. The smaller broken rice grains are ground into rice flour which can be used in baby foods, snack foods, including rice crackers, muesli bars, or as a baking ingredient. Ground broken rice grains are also used in manufactured foods, such as sausages and milk powder drinks.

Rice straw

Rice straw is the stalks left over after the grains of rice have all been removed in the milling process. Rice straw is used as a building material because it is easy to work with, inexpensive and good for the environment. Some dairy farmers use rice straw as fibre for grain–fed stock. It can also be used to make paper.

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