4th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: History: How has rice been produced throughout history?


Rice, a plant that produces an edible grain, is the staple food for two-thirds of the world's population. In many places, rice is eaten with every meal and is depended on to provide more calories than any other food. Rice is a wholesome and nutritious cereal grain that contains 103 calories per half-cup serving of white rice.

A rice plant is a type of grass. A grass is one of any number of plants having narrow leaves and jointed stems. Several flowering stalks emerge from the plant, and in many a loose cluster of branching stems called a panicle radiates at the top of each stalk. When the grain has fully formed, the panicle droops under the weight of the ripened kernels. One panicle usually produces two handfuls of rice.

Rice grows in many different countries under a variety of different growing conditions. But, basically there are two general ways to cultivate rice. One method of cultivation that has been used for thousands of years is called upland rice. The other method is called irrigated rice.

About sixty percent of the world's rice is cultivated as upland rice. Rice is grown in flooded fields called paddies. Upland rice farming methods depend upon rainfall to flood the fields. This method is used widely in Asia, India, Brazil and other countries.

Irrigated rice cultivation uses water from nearby rivers, canals, wells or other sources of water to flood the paddies. The irrigation method gives the rice farmer more control over the growing environment and he makes efficient use of water resources. This method is widely found in countries that use modern methods of farming, such as in the United States.

Historians tell us that rice production started as early as 5000 BC in Asia. Archaeologists have found that rice was grown in Thailand as early as 4000 BC and then spread to China, Japan and Indonesia. By 400 BC rice was being produced in the Middle East and Africa. The armies of Alexander the Great introduced rice to Greece and neighboring Mediterranean countries around 330 BC. Rice was brought to the United States in the 1600's and commercial production began in 1685.

In the United States, rice played an important role in commercialization of the coastal southeast. Rice was the first crop to be exported from the new world. In the early days of American rice farming, rice was grown in Georgia and the Carolinas. Here, the exportation of rice was important economically.

In order for rice to be grown effectively, early growers had to:

1. Clear and prepare the fields

2. Build levees

3. Plant, harvest and thresh the rice

Today rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. It is an important export crop for the states that grow it.

Rice production has played an important role in many cultures. It has been a staple food for many centuries. Many cultures have adopted new technologies making the production of rice an easier and quicker process.

Imagine that you are part of a family that produced rice in the 1600s. Write a story that shows what your family had to do in order to produce rice. You can use other sources of information to make your story accurate and interesting.


Choose a rice recipe from a cookbook. Have an adult help you make it. While the rice is cooking write two paragraphs that tell about the history of rice and why it is important to the world.


  • rice
  • grass
  • paddies
  • panicle
  • levee

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
American Rice:
More than 90% of the rice eaten in the United States is grown by U.S. farmers.
Click here to learn more about where Rice is grown in the United States.
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