- Published: 11 December 2008
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Sue Marconi, age 13, of Johnson City, Tenn., for her question:
WHEN WAS RICE INTRODUCED IN AMERICA?
Rice originally was grown in Southeast Asia for thousands of years. Although the Bible does not mention rice, ancient records show that the Greeks learned about it in 326 B.C. when Alexander the Great invaded India. Rice wasn't brought to the United States until the late 1600s.
The Moors had introduced the crop into Spain during their conquest of that country in the A.D. 700s. Then the Spaniards took rice to Italy during the 1400s and the Spanish colonists took it to the West Indies and South America in the early 1600s.
According to the story, rice first came to America when a ship from Madagascar, damaged by storms, took refuge in the Charleston, S.C. harbor. Before sailing, the ship's captain presented the governor of the colony with a sack of seed rice.
For almost 200 years, South Carolina was the leading rice producer in the United States. By 1839, rice was grown in a 11 states south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, as well as in Illinois and Virginia.
In 1889, Louisiana became the leading rice state. Crowley, La., became known as the Rice Center of America because of its many rice mills.
Texas started to grow upland rice as early as 1863, but did not become commercially important as a rice producer until 1899, after irrigation methods were introduced. Commercial production began in Arkansas in 1905, in California in 1912 and in Mississippi in 1949.
About 677 billion pounds of rice are produced throughout the world each year. This is about 176 pounds for each person on earth. Rice now grows as far south as Argentina and as far north as Austria.
China is the world's leading rice growing country, with India in second place and Indonesia in third. Following, in order, are Bangladesh, Japan, Thailand, Burma, Brazil and Korea.
Arkansas is the leading rice growing state in the United States, followed by California, Louisiana and Texas.
Farmers throughout the world raise between 7,000 and 8,000 different kinds of cultivated rice. Farmers in the United States grow about 15 varieties.
Most of the world's rice crop grows with water standing on the fields. Such rice is called lowland, wet or irrigated rice.
In the United Stated, rice grows in artificially flooded fields.
Farmers in countries with plentiful rainfall raise rice on land too hilly to be flooded. Such rice is called upland, hill or dry rice and it can be found in regions of Africa, Asia and South America.
Certain rice varieties grow best on lowlands and others on uplands. Some varieties grow well in either place.
Some kinds of very early rice ripen within 80 days after planting, but some late varieties require more than 200 days. Rice grown in the United States ripens in from 110 to 150 days.