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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rice plant (Oryza sativa) with branched panicles containing many grains on each stem
Rice grains of different varieties at the International Rice Research Institute

Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or, much less commonly, O. glaberrima (African rice). As a cereal grain, domesticated rice is the most widely consumed staple food for over half of the world's human population, particularly in Asia and Africa. It is the agricultural commodity with the third-highest worldwide production, after sugarcane and maize. Since sizable portions of sugarcane and maize crops are used for purposes other than human consumption, rice is the most important food crop with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one-fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans. There are many varieties of rice, and culinary preferences tend to vary regionally.

Rice, a monocot, is normally grown as an annual plant, and irrigated by flooding the fields while, or after, setting the seedlings. Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs and high rainfall, as it is labor-intensive and requires ample water. However, rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain area with the use of water-controlling terrace systems. Although its parent species are native to Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures worldwide. Production of rice is estimated to have been responsible for over 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2022.

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The rice plant can grow to over 1 m (3 ft) tall; if in deep water, it can reach a length of 5 m (16 ft). A single plant may have several leafy stems or tillers. The upright stem is jointed with nodes along its length; a long slender leaf arises from each node.[1]

The self-fertile flowers are produced in a panicle, a branched inflorescence which arises from the last internode on the stem. There can be up to 350 spikelets in a panicle, each containing male and female flower parts (anthers and ovule). A fertilised ovule develops into the edible grain or caryopsis.[2]

Rice is a cereal belonging to the family Poecae. As a tropical crop, it can be grown during the two distinct seasons (dry and wet) of the year provided that sufficient water is made available.[3] It is normally an annual, but in the tropics it can survive as a perennial, producing a ratoon crop for up to 30 years.[4]


Rice growth and production are affected by: the environment, soil properties, biotic conditions, and cultural practices. Environmental factors include rainfall and water, temperature, photoperiod, solar radiation and, in some instances, tropical storms. Soil factors include soil type and their position in uplands or lowlands. Biotic factors deal with weeds, insects, diseases, and crop varieties.[5]

Rice does not thrive if waterlogged, yet it can survive and grow in paddy fields which are regularly flooded.[6][7] Rice can be grown in different environments, depending upon water availability. The usual arrangement is for lowland fields to be surrounded by bunds and flooded to a depth of a few centimetres until around a week before harvest time; this requires a large amount of water. The "alternate wetting and drying" technique, flooding the fields for around a week, then draining them for a similar period, and so on, uses less water.[8] Deepwater rice varieties tolerate flooding to a depth of over 50 centimetres for at least a month.[9][10] Upland rice is grown without flooding; it is rainfed like wheat or maize.[11]

History of cultivation

Bas-relief of 9th century Borobudur in Indonesia describes rice barns and rice plants infested by mice.

Oryza sativa rice was first domesticated in the Yangtze River basin in China 13,500 to 8,200 years ago.[12][13][14][15] Cultivation, migration and trade spread rice around the world—first to much of east Asia, and then further abroad, and eventually to the Americas as part of the Columbian exchange. The now less common Oryza glaberrima (African rice) was independently domesticated in Africa around 3,000 years ago.[16]


Rice production – 2021
Country Millions of tonnes
 China 213
 India 195
 Bangladesh 57
 Indonesia 54
 Vietnam 44
 Thailand 30
World 787[17]


In 2021, world production of rice was 787 million tonnes, led by China and India with a combined 52% of the total.[17] Other major producers were Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.[18] 90% of world production is from Asia.[19]

Production of rice (2021)[18]

Food security

Rice is a major food staple in Asia, Latin America, and some parts of Africa, feeding over half of the world's population.[20][19] Many rice grain producing countries have significant losses post-harvest at the farm and because of poor roads, inadequate storage technologies, inefficient supply chains and farmer's inability to bring the produce into retail markets dominated by small shopkeepers. A World Bank – FAO study claims 8% to 26% of rice is lost in developing nations, on average, every year, because of post-harvest problems and poor infrastructure. Some sources claim the post-harvest losses exceed 40%.[21][22] Not only do these losses reduce food security in the world, the study claims that farmers in developing countries such as China, India and others lose approximately US$89 billion of income in preventable post-harvest farm losses, poor transport, the lack of proper storage and retail. One study claims that if these post-harvest grain losses could be eliminated with better infrastructure and retail network, in India alone enough food would be saved every year to feed 70 to 100 million people.[23]

Harvesting, drying and milling

Across Asia, unmilled rice or "paddy" (Indonesian and Malay padi), is almost entirely the product of smallholder agriculture, and is often harvested manually. The grain is ready to harvest when the moisture content is 20–25%. Harvesting involves reaping, stacking the cut stalks, threshing to separate the grain, and cleaning by winnowing or screening.[24]

The rice grain is then dried as soon as possible to bring the moisture content down to a level that is safe from mould fungi. Traditional drying relies on the heat of the sun, with the grain spread out on mats or on pavements.[25]

The dry grain is milled to remove the outer layers, namely the husk and bran. These can be removed in a single step, in two steps, or as in commercial milling in a multi-step process of cleaning, dehusking, separation, polishing, grading, and weighing.[26]


In some countries, a popular form, parboiled rice (also known as converted rice and easy-cook rice) is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice grain. The parboil process causes a gelatinisation of the starch in the grains. The grains become less brittle, and the color of the milled grain changes from white to yellow. The rice is then dried, and can then be milled as usual or used as brown rice. Milled parboiled rice is nutritionally superior to standard milled rice, because the process causes nutrients from the outer husk (especially thiamine) to move into the endosperm, so that less is lost when the husk is polished off during milling.[27]

Raw rice may be ground into flour for many uses, including making many kinds of beverages, such as amazake, horchata, rice milk, and rice wine. Rice does not contain gluten, so is suitable for people on a gluten-free diet.[28]

Rice is a good source of protein and a staple food in many parts of the world, but it is not a complete protein: it does not contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts for good health, and should be combined with other sources of protein, such as nuts, seeds, beans, fish, or meat.[29]


Because of the importance of rice to human nutrition and food security in Asia, the domestic rice markets tend to be subject to considerable state involvement. While the private sector plays a leading role in most countries, agencies such as BULOG in Indonesia, the NFA in the Philippines, VINAFOOD in Vietnam and the Food Corporation of India are all heavily involved in purchasing of paddy from farmers or rice from mills and in distributing rice to poorer people. BULOG monopolises rice imports into Indonesia while VINAFOOD controls all exports from Vietnam.[30]


World trade figures are much smaller than those for production, as less than 8% of rice produced is traded internationally.[31] Developing countries are the main players in the world rice trade, accounting for 83% of exports and 85% of imports. While there are numerous importers of rice, the exporters of rice are limited. Just five countries—Thailand, Vietnam, China, the United States and India—in decreasing order of exported quantities, accounted for about three-quarters of world rice exports in 2002.[21] However, this ranking has been rapidly changing in recent years. In 2010, the three largest exporters of rice, in decreasing order of quantity exported were Thailand, Vietnam and India. By 2012, India became the largest exporter of rice with a 100% increase in its exports on year-to-year basis, and Thailand slipped to third position. Together, Thailand, Vietnam and India accounted for nearly 70% of the world rice exports.[32][33]

The primary variety exported by Thailand and Vietnam were Jasmine rice, while exports from India included aromatic Basmati variety. China, an exporter of rice in the early 2000s, had become a net importer of rice by 2010.[31][34] According to a USDA report, the world's largest exporters of rice in 2012 were India (9.75 million metric tons (10.75 million short tons)), Vietnam (7 million metric tons (7.7 million short tons)), Thailand (6.5 million metric tons (7.2 million short tons)), Pakistan (3.75 million metric tons (4.13 million short tons)) and the United States (3.5 million metric tons (3.9 million short tons)).[35]

Major importers include Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brazil and some African and Persian Gulf countries. In common with other West African countries, Nigeria is actively promoting domestic production. However, its heavy import duties (110%) open it to smuggling.[36]

Yield records

The average world yield for rice was 4.3 metric tons per hectare (1.9 short tons per acre), in 2010. Australian rice farms were the most productive in 2010, with a nationwide average of 10.8 metric tons per hectare (4.8 short tons per acre).[37]

Yuan Longping of China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center set a world record for rice yield in 2010 at 19 metric tons per hectare (8.5 short tons per acre) on a demonstration plot. In 2011, this record was reportedly surpassed by an Indian farmer, Sumant Kumar, with 22.4 metric tons per hectare (10.0 short tons per acre) in Bihar, although this claim has been disputed by both Yuan and India's Central Rice Research Institute. These efforts employed newly developed rice breeds and System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a recent innovation in rice farming.[38][39][40][41]

Worldwide consumption

As of 2016, the countries with the highest national consumption were China (29% of total), India and Indonesia, together comprising 59% of total world consumption.[42] On an annual average from 2020-23, China consumed 154 million tonnes of rice, India consumed 109 million tonnes, and Bangladesh and Indonesia consumed about 36 million tonnes each.[43]

Per capita in 2016, the highest levels of rice consumption were in Myanmar (306 kg per year), Vietnam (285 kg), Thailand (233 kg), Bangladesh (229 kg), and Indonesia (210 kg), while the average per capita consumption of rice among all countries was 72 kg per year.[42]


Cooked white rice, medium-grain, unenriched
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy544 kJ (130 kcal)
28.6 g
0.2 g
2.4 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.02 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.02 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.4 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.41 mg
Vitamin B6
0.05 mg
Folate (B9)
2 μg
3 mg
0.2 mg
13 mg
0.38 mg
37 mg
29 mg
0 mg
0.4 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water69 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.

Rice is commonly consumed as food around the world. The varieties of rice are typically classified as long-, medium-, and short-grained.[44] The grains of long-grain rice (high in amylose) tend to remain intact after cooking; medium-grain rice (high in amylopectin) becomes more sticky. Medium-grain rice is used for sweet dishes, for risotto in Italy, and many rice dishes, such as arròs negre, in Spain. Some varieties of long-grain rice that are high in amylopectin, known as Thai Sticky rice, are usually steamed.[45] A stickier short-grain rice is used for sushi;[46] the stickiness allows rice to hold its shape when cooked.[47] Short-grain rice is used extensively in Japan,[48] including to accompany savoury dishes.[49]


Cooked white rice is 69% water, 29% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and contains negligible fat (table). In a reference serving of 100 grams (3.5 oz), cooked white rice provides 130 calories of food energy, and contains moderate levels of manganese (18% DV), with no other micronutrients in significant content (all less than 10% of the Daily Value).[50]


In 2018, the World Health Organization recommended fortifying rice with micronutrients, particularly iron to improve hemoglobin levels in anemic children.[51] A 2022 review of storage and cooking methods on iron-fortified rice found that use of ferric pyrophosphate for iron fortification provided rice with organoleptic qualities and consumer acceptance similar to those of unfortified milled rice.[52]

Golden rice

Golden rice is a variety produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of the rice.[53][54] It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency causes xerophthalmia, a range of eye conditions including permanent blindness, and increases risk of mortality from measles and diarrhea in children. In 2013, the prevalence of deficiency was high in sub-Saharan Africa (48%; 25–75), and South Asia (44%; 13–79).[55] Golden rice has been opposed by environmental and anti-globalisation activists. In 2016 more than 100 Nobel laureates encouraged the use of a strain with a raised beta-carotene content on the grounds that this would alleviate vitamin A deficiency in Africa and Asia.[56][57][58]

Environmental impacts

Climate change

The worldwide production of rice accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from croplands,[59] and is half that of beef.[60] It was estimated in 2021 to be responsible for 30% of agricultural methane emissions and 11% of agricultural nitrous oxide emissions.[61] Methane release is caused by long-term flooding of rice fields, inhibiting the soil from absorbing atmospheric oxygen, a process causing anaerobic fermentation of organic matter in the soil.[62] Climate Trace estimates 2022 GHG emissions from rice cultivation at 5.7 billion tonnes CO2eq, 1.2% of total emissions.[63] Emissions can be limited by planting new varieties, not flooding continuously, and removing straw.[64]

A 2010 study found that, as a result of rising temperatures and decreasing solar radiation during the later years of the 20th century, the rice yield growth rate has decreased in many parts of Asia, compared to what would have been observed had the temperature and solar radiation trends not occurred.[65][66] The yield growth rate had fallen 10–20% at some locations. The study was based on records from 227 farms in Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, India, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The mechanism of this falling yield was not clear, but might involve increased respiration during warm nights, which expends energy without being able to photosynthesize. More detailed analysis of rice yields by the International Rice Research Institute forecast 20% reduction in yields in Asia per degree Celsius of temperature rise. Rice becomes sterile if exposed to temperatures above 35 °C (95 °F) for more than one hour during flowering and consequently produces no grain.[67][68]

Work by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of rice production.

Water usage

Rice requires more water to produce than other grains.[69] Rice production uses almost a third of Earth's fresh water.[70] Water outflows from rice fields through transpiration, evaporation, seepage, and percolation.[71] It is estimated that it takes about 2,500 litres (660 US gal) of water need to be supplied to account for all of these outflows and produce 1 kilogram (2 lb 3 oz) of rice.[71]

Pests, weeds, and diseases

Rice pests are animals which have the potential to reduce the yield or value of the rice crop (or of rice seeds); plants are described as weeds, while microbes are described as pathogens, disease-causing organisms.[72] Rice pests include insects, nematodes, rodents, and birds. A variety of factors can contribute to pest outbreaks, including climatic factors, improper irrigation, the overuse of insecticides and high rates of nitrogen fertilizer application.[73] Weather conditions also contribute to pest outbreaks. For example, rice gall midge and army worm outbreaks tend to follow periods of high rainfall early in the wet season, while thrips outbreaks are associated with drought.[74]

Pests and weeds

Chinese rice grasshopper
(Oxya chinensis)
Borneo, Malaysia

Major rice insect pests include: the brown planthopper (BPH),[75] several species of stemborers—including those in the genera Scirpophaga and Chilo,[76] the rice gall midge,[77] several species of rice bugs,[78] notably in the genus Leptocorisa,[79] defoliators such as the rice: leafroller, hispa and grasshoppers.[80] The fall armyworm, a species of Lepidoptera, also targets and causes damage to rice crops.[81]

Several nematode species infect rice crops, causing diseases such as ufra (Ditylenchus dipsaci), white tip disease (Aphelenchoide bessei), and root knot disease (Meloidogyne graminicola). Some nematode species such as Pratylenchus spp. are most damaging to upland rice of all parts of the world. Rice root nematode (Hirschmanniella oryzae) is a migratory endoparasite which on higher inoculum levels leads to complete destruction of a rice crop. Beyond being obligate parasites, they decrease the vigor of plants and increase the plants' susceptibility to other pests and diseases.[82][83] Other pests include the apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata), panicle rice mite, rats,[84] and the weed Echinochloa crus-galli.[85] Rice may be infested by the hemiparasitic eudicot weed Striga hermonthica.[86]


Lesions caused by rice blast on plant nodes

Rice blast, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe grisea (syn. M. oryzae, Pyricularia oryzae),[87] is the most significant disease affecting rice cultivation. It and bacterial leaf streak (caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae) are perennially the two worst rice diseases worldwide; they are both among the worst 10 diseases of all plants.[88] A 2010 review reported clones for quantitative disease resistance in plants.[89] The plant responds to the blast pathogen by releasing jasmonic acid, which then cascades into the activation of further downstream metabolic pathways which produce the defense response.[90] This accumulates as methyl-jasmonic acid.[90] The pathogen responds by synthesizing an oxidizing enzyme which prevents this accumlation and its resulting alarm signal.[90] OsPii-2 was discovered by Fujisaki et al., 2017.[91] It is a nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat receptor (NB-LRR, NLR), an immunoreceptor.[91] It includes an NOI domain (NO3-induced) which binds rice's own Exo70-F3 protein.[91] This protein is a target of the M. oryzae effector AVR-Pii and so this allows the NLR to monitor for Mo's attack against that target.[91] Some rice cultivars carry resistance alleles of the OsSWEET13 gene, which produces the molecular target of the X. oryzae pv. oryzae effector PthXo2.[92]

Other major fungal and bacterial rice diseases include sheath blight (caused by Rhizoctonia solani), false smut (Ustilaginoidea virens), bacterial panicle blight (Burkholderia glumae),[93] sheath rot (Sarocladium oryzae), and bakanae (Fusarium fujikuroi).[94] Viral diseases exist, such as rice ragged stunt (vector: BPH), and tungro (vector: Nephotettix spp).[95] Many viral diseases, especially those vectored by planthoppers and leafhoppers, are major causes of losses across the world.[96] There is also an ascomycete fungus, Cochliobolus miyabeanus, that causes brown spot disease in rice.[97][98][94]

Integrated pest management

Crop protection scientists are trying to develop rice pest management techniques which are sustainable. In other words, to manage crop pests in such a manner that future crop production is not threatened.[99] Sustainable pest management is based on four principles: biodiversity, host plant resistance,[100] landscape ecology, and hierarchies in a landscape—from biological to social.[101] At present, rice pest management includes cultural techniques, pest-resistant rice varieties,[100] and pesticides (which include insecticide). Increasingly, there is evidence that farmers' pesticide applications are often unnecessary, and even facilitate pest outbreaks.[102][103][104][105] By reducing the populations of natural enemies of rice pests,[106] misuse of insecticides can actually lead to pest outbreaks.[107] The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) demonstrated in 1993 that an 87.5% reduction in pesticide use can lead to an overall drop in pest numbers.[108] IRRI also conducted two campaigns in 1994 and 2003, respectively, which discouraged insecticide misuse and smarter pest management in Vietnam.[109][110]

Rice plants produce their own chemical defenses to protect themselves from pest attacks. Some synthetic chemicals, such as the herbicide 2,4-D, cause the plant to increase the production of certain defensive chemicals and thereby increase the plant's resistance to some types of pests.[111] Conversely, other chemicals, such as the insecticide imidacloprid, can induce changes in the gene expression of the rice that cause the plant to become more susceptible to attacks by certain types of pests.[112] 5-Alkylresorcinols are chemicals that can also be found in rice.[113]

Chloroxylon, the satinwood tree (rue family), is used for pest management in organic cultivation in Chhattisgarh.

Botanicals, so-called "natural pesticides", are used by some farmers in an attempt to control rice pests. Botanicals include extracts of leaves, or a mulch of the leaves themselves. Some upland rice farmers in Cambodia spread chopped leaves of the bitter bush (Chromolaena odorata) over the surface of fields after planting. This practice probably helps the soil retain moisture and thereby facilitates seed germination. Farmers also claim the leaves are a natural fertilizer and helps suppress weed and insect infestations.[114]

Among rice cultivars, there are differences in the responses to, and recovery from, pest damage.[78][115][100] Many rice varieties have been selected for resistance to insect pests.[116][117][100] Therefore, particular cultivars are recommended for areas prone to certain pest problems.[100] The genetically based ability of a rice variety to withstand pest attacks is called resistance. Three main types of plant resistance to pests are recognized as nonpreference, antibiosis, and tolerance.[118] Nonpreference (or antixenosis) describes host plants which insects prefer to avoid; antibiosis is where insect survival is reduced after the ingestion of host tissue; and tolerance is the capacity of a plant to produce high yield or retain high quality despite insect infestation.[119]

Over time, the use of pest-resistant rice varieties selects for pests that are able to overcome these mechanisms of resistance. When a rice variety is no longer able to resist pest infestations, resistance is said to have broken down. Rice varieties that can be widely grown for many years in the presence of pests and retain their ability to withstand the pests are said to have durable resistance. Mutants of popular rice varieties are regularly screened by plant breeders to discover new sources of durable resistance.[118][120]

Ecotypes and cultivars

Rice seed collection from IRRI

While most rice is bred for crop quality and productivity, there are varieties selected for characteristics such as texture, smell, and firmness. There are four major categories of rice worldwide: indica, japonica, aromatic and glutinous. The different varieties of rice are not considered interchangeable, either in food preparation or agriculture, so as a result, each major variety is a completely separate market from other varieties. It is common for one variety of rice to rise in price while another one drops in price.[121]

Rice cultivars also fall into groups according to environmental conditions, season of planting, and season of harvest, called ecotypes. Some major groups are the Japan-type (grown in Japan), "buly" and "tjereh" types (Indonesia); sali (or aman—main winter crop), ahu (also aush or ghariya, summer), and boro (spring) (Bengal and Assam).[122][123] Cultivars exist that are adapted to deep flooding, and these are generally called "floating rice".[124]

The largest collection of rice cultivars is at the International Rice Research Institute[125] in the Philippines, with over 100,000 rice accessions[126] held in the International Rice Genebank.[127] Rice cultivars are often classified by their grain shapes and texture. For example, much of southeast Asia grows sticky or glutinous rice (which means sticky, not high in gluten).[128]

High-yield cultivars of rice suitable for cultivation in Africa and other dry ecosystems, called the new rice for Africa (NERICA) cultivars, have been developed to improve food security in West Africa.[129]

Draft genomes for the two most common rice cultivars, indica and japonica, were published in April 2002. Rice was chosen as a model organism for the biology of grasses because of its relatively small genome (~430 megabase pairs). Rice was the first crop with a complete genome sequence.[130]


High-yielding varieties

The high-yielding varieties are a group of crops created intentionally during the Green Revolution to increase global food production. This project enabled labor markets in Asia to shift away from agriculture, and into industrial sectors. The first "Rice Car", IR8 was produced in 1966 at the International Rice Research Institute which is based in the Philippines at the University of the Philippines' Los Baños site. IR8 was created through a cross between an Indonesian variety named "Peta" and a Chinese variety named "Dee Geo Woo Gen."[131]

Scientists have identified and cloned many genes involved in the gibberellin signaling pathway, including GAI1 (Gibberellin Insensitive) and SLR1 (Slender Rice). Disruption of gibberellin signaling can lead to significantly reduced stem growth leading to a dwarf phenotype. Photosynthetic investment in the stem is reduced dramatically as the shorter plants are inherently more stable mechanically. Assimilates become redirected to grain production, amplifying in particular the effect of chemical fertilizers on commercial yield. In the presence of nitrogen fertilizers, and intensive crop management, these varieties increase their yield two to three times.[132]

Expression of human proteins

Ventria Bioscience has genetically modified rice to express lactoferrin, lysozyme which are proteins usually found in breast milk, and human serum albumin, These proteins have antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects.[133]

Rice containing these added proteins can be used as a component in oral rehydration solutions which are used to treat diarrheal diseases, thereby shortening their duration and reducing recurrence. Such supplements may also help reverse anemia.[134]

Flood-tolerant rice

Due to the varying levels that water can reach in regions of cultivation, flood tolerant varieties have long been developed and used. Flooding is an issue that many rice growers face, especially in South and South East Asia where flooding annually affects 20 million hectares (49 million acres).[135] Flooding has historically led to massive losses in yields, such as in the Philippines, where in 2006, rice crops worth $65 million were lost to flooding.[136] Standard rice varieties cannot withstand stagnant flooding for more than about a week,[137] since it disallows the plant access to necessary requirements such as sunlight and gas exchange.[135]

Drought-tolerant rice

Drought represents a significant environmental stress for rice production, with 19–23 million hectares (47–57 million acres) of rainfed rice production in South and South East Asia often at risk.[138][139] Under drought conditions, without sufficient water to afford them the ability to obtain the required levels of nutrients from the soil, conventional commercial rice varieties can be severely affected—for example, yield losses as high as 40% have affected some parts of India, with resulting losses of around US$800 million annually.[140]

The International Rice Research Institute conducts research into developing drought-tolerant rice varieties, including the varieties 5411 and Sookha dhan, currently being employed by farmers in the Philippines and Nepal respectively.[139] In addition, in 2013 the Japanese National Institute for Agrobiological Sciences led a team which successfully inserted the DEEPER ROOTING 1 (DRO1) gene, from the Philippine upland rice variety Kinandang Patong, into the popular commercial rice variety IR64, giving rise to a far deeper root system in the resulting plants.[140] This facilitates an improved ability for the rice plant to derive its required nutrients in times of drought via accessing deeper layers of soil, a feature demonstrated by trials which saw the IR64 + DRO1 rice yields drop by 10% under moderate drought conditions, compared to 60% for the unmodified IR64 variety.[140][141]

Salt-tolerant rice

Soil salinity poses a major threat to rice crop productivity, particularly along low-lying coastal areas during the dry season.[138][142] For example, roughly 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of the coastal areas of Bangladesh are affected by saline soils.[143] These high concentrations of salt can severely affect rice plants' normal physiology, especially during early stages of growth, and as such farmers are often forced to abandon these otherwise potentially usable areas.[144][145]

Progress has been made, however, in developing rice varieties capable of tolerating such conditions; the hybrid created from the cross between the commercial rice variety IR56 and the wild rice species Oryza coarctata is one example.[146] O. coarctata is capable of successful growth in soils with double the limit of salinity of normal varieties, but lacks the ability to produce edible rice.[146] Developed by the International Rice Research Institute, the hybrid variety can utilise specialised leaf glands that allow for the removal of salt into the atmosphere. It was initially produced from one successful embryo out of 34,000 crosses between the two species; this was then backcrossed to IR56 with the aim of preserving the genes responsible for salt tolerance that were inherited from O. coarctata.[144] Extensive trials are planned prior to the new variety being available to farmers by approximately 2017–18.[144]

The irrigated rice (paddy) crop in Egypt has a salt tolerance of ECe=5.5 dS/m beyond which the yield declines.[147]

Environment-friendly rice

Producing rice in paddies is harmful for the environment due to the release of methane by methanogenic bacteria. These bacteria live in the anaerobic waterlogged soil, and live off nutrients released by rice roots. Researchers have recently reported in Nature that putting the barley gene SUSIBA2 into rice creates a shift in biomass production from root to shoot (above ground tissue becomes larger, while below ground tissue is reduced), decreasing the methanogen population, and resulting in a reduction of methane emissions of up to 97%. Apart from this environmental benefit, the modification also increases the amount of rice grains by 43%, which makes it a useful tool in feeding a growing world population.[148][149]

Model organism

Rice is used as a model organism for investigating the molecular mechanisms of meiosis and DNA repair in higher plants. Meiosis is a key stage of the sexual cycle in which diploid cells in the ovule (female structure) and the anther (male structure) produce haploid cells that develop further into gametophytes and gametes. So far, 28 meiotic genes of rice have been characterized.[150] Studies of rice gene OsRAD51C showed that this gene is necessary for homologous recombinational repair of DNA, particularly the accurate repair of DNA double-strand breaks during meiosis.[151] Rice gene OsDMC1 was found to be essential for pairing of homologous chromosomes during meiosis,[152] and rice gene OsMRE11 was found to be required for both synapsis of homologous chromosomes and repair of double-strand breaks during meiosis.[153]

In human culture

Ancient statue of the rice goddess Dewi Sri from Java (c. 9th century)

Rice plays an important role in certain religions and popular beliefs. In many cultures, relatives scatter rice over the bride and groom in a wedding ceremony.[154] In Malay weddings, rice features in multiple special wedding foods such as "sweet glutinous rice, buttered rice, [and] yellow glutinous rice".[155] The pounded rice ritual is conducted during weddings in Nepal. The bride gives a leafplate full of pounded rice to the groom after he requests it politely from her.[156] In the Philippines rice wine, popularly known as tapuy, is used for important occasions such as weddings, rice harvesting ceremonies and other celebrations.[157]

Dewi Sri is the traditional rice goddess of the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese people in Indonesia. Most rituals involving Dewi Sri are associated with the mythical origin attributed to the rice plant, the staple food of the region.[158][159]

A 2014 study of Han Chinese communities found that a history of farming rice makes cultures more psychologically interdependent, whereas a history of farming wheat makes cultures more independent.[160]

A Royal Ploughing Ceremony is held in certain Asian countries to mark the beginning of the rice planting season. It is still honored in the kingdoms of Cambodia[161][162] and Thailand.[163] The 2,600-year-old tradition – begun by Śuddhodana in Kapilavastu – was revived in the republic of Nepal in 2017 after a lapse of a few years.[164]

The Thai kings have patronised rice breeding since at least the reign of Chulalongkorn,[165][166] and his great-great-grandson Vajiralongkorn released five particular rice varieties to celebrate his coronation.[167]

See also


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