4th Grade - Science

LESSON PROBLEM: Botany: How does the U.S. compare with the rest of the world in rice consumption?


Rice is a cereal grain that is native to the deltas of rivers like the Ganges, Chang, and Tigris and Euphrates. It has been cultivated since ancient times. A grain is a seed of cereal grass. Rice is a member of the grass family and is semi-aquatic. It grows best in water, but it doesn't have to be grown in water. It grows from two to nineteen feet tall, with a round jointed stem, long pointed leaves and edible seeds in a compact cluster at the end of the stalks.

Rice is mostly grown in water so that farmers will get more rice grains from the plant. It is a perennial plant so it will continue growing without replanting each year. But, farmers have found that they get more rice if they replant or reseed rice each year.

Wild rice, which is a different plant, is an annual aquatic grain that is native to North America. It grows in the cold waters of the Midwest and Northwest. It comes from a grass that has broad blades, reedy stems and large panicles at the end of each stem.

Cultivating and harvesting is very important in the growing of rice. Cultivating is improving the land by fertilizing and plowing. In Asia much of the rice is cultivated and harvested by hand:

1. Fields are prepared by plowing: Usually with simple plows drawn by water buffalo.
2. Fertilizing: Usually with animal waste.
3. Leveling: Dragging a log over the fields.

Seedlings are started in beds and after 30-50 days, are transplanted by hand to the fields, which have been flooded by rain or river water. During the growing season, irrigation is maintained by levee-controlled canals or hand waterings. Irrigation is when you water the land or crops by a way other than by rain water. The fields are allowed to drain before the rice is cut.

When the rice is still covered by the straw-like hull it is known as paddy rice. Rice fields are referred to as either paddy fields or rice paddies. Before marketing, the rice is cut and then threshed. Threshing is when the grain is separated from the plant.

In order to remove the inedible hulls from the rice grain, the famers must loosen the hulls by flailing, treading or working the rice in a mortar. Then they winnow free the chaff by tossing it in the air. The wind will blow the light, loosened hulls away from the heavier rice grain.

In the United States, rice was introduced to the American colonies in the mid-17th century. During that period growing rice was hard work that required farmers to use lots of people to cultivate and harvest the rice. Today rice farming in the United States has become very specialized. Rice farmers now use special equipment, lazers and computers. American rice farmers are the most modern, efficient farmers in the world today!

Most of the United States rice is produced in the following states today:

1. Arkansas
2. Texas
3. California
4. Louisiana
5. Mississippi
6. Missouri

The world's leading rice producing countries are:
1. China
2. India
3. Indonesia
4. Bangladesh
5. Thailand

The total annual world production of rice is about 400 million metric tons.

It has been estimated that more than two-thirds of the world's population depends on rice as its staple grain. Ninety percent of the world's rice crop is grown in Asia. American rice consumption, although increasing, is only about 27 pounds per person, annually, as compared with 200-400 pounds per person in many parts of Asia.


Data Collection: Research each individual country listed in the lesson. After that find out how much rice is cultivated and consumed. Graph your results and teach someone you know about rice production.


Eat hearty: Make one of the rice dishes by going to a website in the Resources. Pilaf is a delicious recipe. Enjoy yourself and the rice!


USA Rice

Rice: Health and Nutrition

All About Rice

Rice Pilaf

Ratatouille and Rice Bake Off

Japan's Secret Garden

Rice Web

  • grain
  • wild rice
  • threshed
  • irrigation
  • aquatic
  • cultivating
  • panicles

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
The Milling Process for Rice:
Getting rice from the field to you takes
a few more steps. Click here to see a video & learn more about the rice milling process.
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