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CHAPTER 2. RICE IMPROVEMENT AND CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES
C. ROY ADAIR,
M. D. MILLER, AND H. 1%. BEACHELL
area of origin. Rice is widely distributed throughout tropical, subtropical,
and temperate zones of all continents. Asia produces over 90 per cent of
the total world crop. Communist China, which produced about 160,OOO
million pounds in 1960, leads in total production. North America is the
fourth continent in production, and the United States is second to Brazil
in the Western Hemisphere.
Although the Agricultural Statistics, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
1960, showed that the average annual wheat production in the United
States was about 13.5 times as much as rice during the 5-year period
1950-1954432,261,730 tons compared with 2,387,350 tons-the world
production of these two important food crops was about equal. The average annual world production of rough rice was 197,962,000 tons compared with 209,400,000 tons of wheat. Since more wheat than rice is used
for animal feed and seed, it is likely that as much rice as wheat is consumed by humans. Rice is the principal item in the diet of most of the
people in southeast Asia and the adjacent islands and in some Latin
Rice for food is used primarily as a whole-grain food product although
the by-products from milling are used in other food products and
beverages. During the milling process the hulls, bran, and embryos are
removed. The bran and embryos are used primarily for animal feed.
The whole grain (head rice) and larger pieces of broken grains (second
heads) are used as table rice and processed cereals, the smaller pieces
of broken kernels may be used for cereal products (grits) or ground
into flour, and the smallest pieces of broken kernels (brewers' rice) are
used in the brewing industry.
Highly milled rice is low in protein and vitamins compared with
some cereals. Milled rice does, however, contain 5 to 10 per cent protein
with a good complement of the essential amino acids. Although highly
milled rice is very low in vitamins, parboiled or slightly undermilled
rice contains an appreciable amount of the B complex (Kik and Williams,
1945, p. 60).
IN THE UNITED
1. Acreage and Prodtiction
The history of rice growing in the United States and the method of
culture used have been discused by many authors. Some of these are
Copeland ( 1924), Gray and Thompson ( 1941 ) , Efferson ( 1952), Van
Royen (1954), and Beachell (1959). Other authors have discussed
phases or areas of rice culture in the United States. Several of these
papers are referred to throughout this article.
Rice has been grown as a commercial crop in the United States since
RICE IMPROVEMENT AND CULTURE I N UNITED STATES
the latter part of the seventeenth century. It was one of the crops the
colonists tried to grow soon after settling at Jamestown, Virginia. Gray
and Thompson (1941) reported that early records of the Virginia colony
mention the intention to plant rice in 1609 and in 1622 a trial planting
was made. Some upland rice for domestic use was grown in North
Carolina and South Carolina before 1680. Successful rice culture was
not established in the colonies until somewhat later than this.
According to Salley (1936), Captain John Thurber, master of a New
England brigantine, put in at Charles Town Harbor sometime prior
to 1686. From him, Dr. Henry Woodward got about a peck of goldhulled seed rice obtained from Madagascar. Dr. Woodward planted the
seed, had a very good yield, and distributed it to his friends for further
planting. By 1690 the production of rice had so advanced that the
planters asked that it be specified as one of the commodities with which
they might pay their quitrents, and by 1700 its production was so great
that there were not enough ships in Charles Town to export it all.
Another version regarding the introduction of rice growing in the
Colonies claims that Governor Langrave T. Smith obtained rice from
a ship sailing from Madagascar that was forced to stop at Charles Town
in 1694. This is probably an embellishment of the facts as it is known
that rice had been in continuous production for several years before that
date. Gray and Thompson (1941, p. 278) stated, “while rice was undoubtedly cultivated in South Carolina before 1694, the various accounts
point to 1694 as a significant date, probably because varieties of superior
quality were introduced which were better adapted to the physical
condition of the Colony than were the varieties previously employed.”
Thus it must be that 1685, a date frequently given, was the approximate
date of the starting of continuous rice culture in the Colonies and that
1694, a date also frequently given, was about the time rice culture was
Rice production data by States are given for 1840, 1850, 1860, and
1870 and acreage and production for each tenth year from 1880 to 1960
in Table I. Holmes (1912) summarized the available rice production
statistics for 1717 to 1911. He reported that the production in 1718 was
over 17 million pounds of rough (paddy) rice, so there were about
12,OOO acres that year as 1350 pounds per acre was about the average
yield. Rice production in the United States has fluctuated from year to
year, and it has been influenced by economic conditions and production
in ather countries and by wars, but data in Table I1 show that the trend
in production has been upward recently. The production in 1960 was
53,363,000 bags of 100 pounds each, or about 300 times the production in
1718. The United States was a net exporter of rice until the Wax between
Acreage and Production of Rice in the United States for Selected Years from 1840 to 1980k
Minor production reported in Ky., Tenn., Ill., Mo., \'a.
b Minor Droduction renorted in Tenn., Mo., Va.
c Minor production reported in Tenn.
d Minor production reported in Va.
e Minor iroduction reported in Hawaii and Va.
f Minor production reported in Mo., Miss., S.C., Ga., Fla.,
Minor production reported in Mo., S.C., Ill., Tenn., Fla.,
Okla., Ariz., N.C.
h .I000bags ( 100-pound bags).
i 1000 acres, harvested.
j Preliminary report.
k Census Reports 1840-1900; U.S.D.A. Statistics 1910-1960.
Annual United States Rice Acreage and Production by States, 195619606
Includes Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
1000 bags (100-pound bags).
Statistics compiled by the Rice Millers Association, New Orleans, Louisiana.
ROY ADALR, M. D. MILLER, AND H. M. B E A W L L
the States (1861), but from that time until 1916 this country was a net
importer. This position is now changed and in recent years the United
States has been third or fourth in exports among rice-producing nations.
The major rice-producing area of the United States was in South
Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia until about 1890. During 1884,
1885, and 1886, experimental plantings of rice were made in the prairie
section of southwest Louisiana, using cultural methods and machinery
employed in wheat production in the North Central States. After certain
adjustments and modifications of these machines and methods had been
made, and with irrigation water from streams, rice was grown successfully in this area (Knapp, 18%). Rice production expanded rapidly in
the coastal prairies of southwest Louisiana and adjacent Texas. Production then declined rapidly in the southeastern States. Doar (1936), writing on rice production in South Carolina and the expansion of production in Louisiana, stated, “with these [rice producers in Louisiana], able
to use machinery of all kinds, we could not compete with our system of
hand labor, nor could we produce rice as cheaply as they.”
A limited acreage of rice was grown along rivers in southeast Arkansas
as early as 1840. The crop did not become of importance until rice
growing was started on Grand Prairie in the early 1900’s. According to
Vincenheller ( 1906), experimental plantings were made near Lonoke in
1902, and in 1904, 435 acres were sown and 5535 hundred-pound bags
of rough rice were produced on the 260 acres harvested. The acreage
expanded rapidly so that 60,000 acres were grown in Arkansas in 1910.
Rice was not grown commercially in California until production was
started in the Sacramento Valley about 1912. Chambliss (1912) reported
that successful rice trials were conducted near Butte Creek in 1909.
Starting in 1912, the acreage expanded so rapidly that rice was grown
on 162,000 acres in California in 1920.
Rice was grown along the rivers in Mississippi as early as 1840
(Table I ) , but it was not until 1948, when rice was produced by modern
methods in the Greenville area, that rice became an important crop.
The acreage expanded rapidly to about 79,000 acres in 1954. Because
of the limited history of production, the acreage in Mississippi was
reduced under the National Acreage Control Program to the present
level of about 45,000 acres.
Although rice has been grown in all southeastern States, as well as in
Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arizona, it now is an important commerical crop only in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, and
Texas, with minor production in Missouri and the southeastern states.
The annual acreage and production for 1956 to 1960 for each state are
given in Table Ii.
RICE IMPROVEMENT AND CULTURE IN UNITED STATES
2. Cultural Methods
Cultural methods used for rice in early times in the Carolinas were
described by Gray and Thompson (1941), Doar (1936), and Allston
(1854, 1855). The first rice was grown in the North American Colonies
without irrigation but experience proved that irrigation throughout the
growing season improved rice yields. A system was developed for irrigating rice along streams influenced by the tide. Hand labor was used to
cbar timber from the land, to dig canals and ditches, and to plow or
work the land with a hoe during the winter. Doar (1936) summarized
a report made in 1850 of cultural methods then practiced by the best
farmers. Rows were laid off in 13-inch centers with a 4-inch trenching
hoe and seed was sown at the rate of 2% to 3 bushels (112 to 135
pounds) an acre. On “low gummy” soils the seed was not covered, but
when soil was well prepared, it was covered. Water was then put on
and held until the grain sprouted, 3 to 6 days after seeding. The water
then was drained. The rice was irrigated and drained four times during
the growing season. This made it possible to hoe and pull weeds and
helped to control insects.
The rice was cut by hand with a sickle, tied in sheaves, conveyed
on “flats” through the canals, and stacked in the barnyard. Some planters
used cradles to cut rice, but this was not a general practice. Some planters
tried to use patent reapers, but this implement was not successful in
the miry fields. When the grain was cured, it was threshed with a flail.
The first mechanical thresher, which was operated by wind power, was
tried in 1811 without success. A horse-powered thresher, introduced
about 1829, was fairly successful and by 1851 steam-powered threshers
that could thresh lo00 bushels a day were available.
Mules and oxen replaced hand labor for seedbed preparation and
hauling the sheaves to the flats, but much hand labor continued to be
used in the “Carolina Low Country” until rice culture was discontinued.
Production methods used in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas
in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are described by
Knapp (1899, 1900, 1910) and Bond and Keeney ( 1902). The best rice
soil was considered to be a “medium loam” with about 50 per cent clay,
underlain by an impervious subsoil. The fields were divided by small
canals into subfields of “suitable” size, with a small levee on the border of
each subfield. Each subfield was leveled so that the depth of irrigation
water was uniform. The land was plowed, usually with a 2-gang, 10-inch
moldboard plow. Sometimes plowing was done in the late fall or in
the winter, but usually it was done in ‘the earIy spring. Plowing was
followed in a short time by disking and then by harrowing. Seeding was
C. ROY ADAIR, M. D. MILLER, AND H. M. BEACHELL
done from mid-March to mid-May, but April seeding was considered
the best. Seeding with a grain drill was recommended, but much rice was
sown with a broadcast seeder and covered with a harrow. The seeding
rate was 45 to 135 pounds per acre. When the soil was dry at seeding
time, it was flooded and drained immediately so that the seed would
sprout. The rice was imgated when the plants were 6 to 8 inches tall.
The depth of water was 3 to 6 inches, and to avoid stagnation, water
was renewed by continuous inflow and out0ow. The fields were drained
about 10 days before the rice was ready to harvest. This allowed the
soil to dry and become firm enough so the rice could be cut with a binder.
Ten sheaves then were placed in a well-capped shock. As soon as the
straw was cured and the grain was dry, it was threshed with a steampowered thresher. The grain was put in large burlap bags, usually about
185 pounds to a bag, and placed in a warehouse or hauled directly to
Except for gradual improvements in the machinery and in irrigation
systems, there apparently were no major changes in cultural methods
from 1900 to about 1920. The use of tractors and gasoline-powered
binders had become fairly common by about 1918. Soon after that, the
power take-off-operated binder, which was a big improvement over the
bullwheel and gasoline engine-powered binder, was perfected. As
larger tractors and more efficient equipment were built, it was possible
to time better and otherwise improve culture practices. The binderthresher method of harvesting continued for many years. The first
change from this method was in about 1929 when “swathers” and pick-up
combines were used to harvest rice in California. At about this time,
studies were started by Smith et al. (1933) and Bainer ( 1932) to determine whether it would be possible to harvest rice with a combine. The
extensive research that has been done in this field since about 1930 was
reviewed and summarized by Dachtler (1959). The combine harvester
is now universally used to harvest rice in the United States. To maintain
the milling quality, rice must be harvested when it is too moist to be
stored. With direct combine harvesting has come postharvest artificial
drying of rice. Drying is done in farm or commercial drying plants.
Bainer et al. (1955) reported that rice is produced in California with
7 9 man-hours per acre, as compared with 900 man-hours in Japan, where
much hand labor is used.
Rice Culture in the United States
A. SOIL~ ~ CLIMATIC
Rice generally is grown on silt loam, silty clay, and clay soils
although it can be grown on all types of soils. It sometimes is grown on
RICE IMPROVEMENT AND CULTURE IN UNITED STATES
organic soils (Green, 1956), and sandy loams are often used. Satisfactory
rice soils must have an impervious stratum within 2 to 5 feet of the
surface or the texture must be fine enough to reduce water percolation
so that seepage is reduced. Because of excessive percolation losses, rice
grown on open permeable soil may require two to three times as much
water as rice of comparable yield grown on "rice" soil. The surface of
the soil must be level so that a uniform depth of about 6 inches of water
can be maintained with a minimum number of levees, yet with enough
slope so that surface water can be drained for seedbed preparation and
Rice requires a relatively long, frost-free growing period. The optimum
growing period for United States varieties is 105 to 170 days. The range
of air temperature for rice production is about 70°F. minimum to
about 95" maximum. Ormrod (1961) showed that CALORO rice seedlings
maintain an appreciable net photosynthetic rate at low air temperature
(40" or 60" ) and a wide range of light intensities. Low light intensities
at a higher temperature (80' ) resulted in net losses of carbon dioxide
from the plants. Rice often is considered to be a tropical crop, although
it is grown throughout the tropical, subtropical, and temperate zones
from the equator to nearly 50" latitude. The range in the United States
is from the Gulf Coast (30"N) to about mid-United States (40"N).
The yields generally are higher in the temperate than in the more tropical
areas. This difference may be due partly to varieties grown, but climate
and soil contribute to this difference.
The riceland cropping systems now used in the United States have
evolved over the years. These systems are based on experience of
growers and information gained from controlled experiments. The cropping system used depends on the soil type and climatic conditions. In
most rice-producing areas of the United States, crop rotation is followed
because, if cropped continuously, the soil usually becomes depleted
in fertility, the organic content becomes so low that the deteriorating
physical conditions make seedbed preparation difficult. The soil also
becomes progressively infested with weeds that lower the yield and
quality of the rice.
In the early years in the Carolinas, rice was grown continuously in
the same field, with occasional rest, according to Gray and Thompson
( 1941). Rice fields in that area were sometimes planted to oats in the
fall, followed by potatoes the next year. Some farmers made a practice
of growing rice and cotton on alternate years. This helped to control
the weeds in both crops. In the South Central States, the fields were