Rice is cultivated in many different ways around the world, the different methods used can differ greatly even in the same locality.
In most Asian countries the ancient primitive methods for cultivating and harvesting are still practised. The fields are prepared by:
- Ploughing - Usually with a simple plough drawn by water buffalo, ploughing breaks up the soil.
- Fertilised - Naturally fertilised.
- Smoothing - Where a log is dragged over the field to smooth the earth, giving a smooth bed for the seedlings to be planted on and ensures the water depth is equal.
Seedlings are started in beds and a after a period of 30 -50 days are transplanted by hand to fields which have been flooded by rain or river water. The seedlings are often placed a hand span apart. During the growing season, irrigation is maintained by dike controlled channels or by hand watering. The fields are drained before cutting of the crop commences.
In California rice is mainly grown in the Sacramento Valley. Computerised laser guided land levelling and re-circulating irrigation systems allow farmers to increase yield and reduce the amounts of water required. Fields are flooded in April and May and are then seeded by aeroplane. By September the crop is mature and ready to be harvested. The rice is transported to dryers to remove moisture and then sent to mills for processing.
In the USA rice farming is now a precise science with specialised equipment, lasers and computers, there is no reliance on the seasonal rains as there is the Eastern rice producing countries.
Land planes are used to level the land. Heavy equipment is used to ensure the creation of even fields that gently slope, enabling uniform flooding and controlled draining. Laser guidance systems determine where water control levees will be placed. In early spring, acres of seeds are quickly planted to an exact depth by grain drills, or cast over dry or flooded fields by aeroplane. Gravity guides fresh water, pumped from deep wells, nearby rivers, canals or reservoirs to provide a constant water depth on the field of 2 to 3 inches during the growing season. And, to ensure a consistent and healthy crop, fertilisers are evenly applied from the air.