Ruben Stringer,
Special to the Record

If the question was asked, “What is the most important food in the world ?” the answer could very well be rice. Nationwide, we consume on average of 25 pounds per capita. In the rice belt which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and Mississippi, about 50 lbs per person is consumed. California is also a producer and is the leader in pounds per acre. Texas is a close second in yield per acre. Arkansas is the leader in total acres planted.

The three types of rice grown worldwide are long, medium and short grain. Rice, a cereal grain, offers versatility unsurpassed by any other food. It can be used in any recipe, soup, salad, main dish, side dish or dessert.

The cultivation of rice is older than recorded history. As far back as 2800 B.C., tales of rice and its significance to mankind dot the pages of history in the eastern hemisphere from China, Greece and the Nile Delta.

Rice was introduced in the United States in the Carolinas in 1609. A ship from Madagascar checked in the port of Charleston for repairs. As an appreciation gift, the ship’s captain gave the mayor of Charleston a sack of rice seed. Production areas have shifted to the south and California. 

California started production in 1849 in conjunction with the gold rush. Many Chinese came to America to seek their fortune. Since rice was a staple food, they brought this culture with them.

Today, people have an opportunity to visit rice farms, experiment stations and field days. A unique event sponsored by the Rice Pasture experiment station in China, Texas is the annual rice judging contest. Today it is held in conjunction with the Texas Rice Festival. Students learn to identify and relate to the rice milling process, recognize rice diseases, harmful insects, noxious weeds and grasses. Production practices and water management are also stressed with a written exam.

Rice farmers are good conservationist. They use a lot of water in their operation. The farmer strives to return the water to its source, the canal or river, in better shape than it was when they irrigated fields with it. Soil and water conservation are always at the top of a rice farmer’s list.

This article was prepared by Ruben Stringer, Lower Sabine Neches Soil Conservation District #446