History of Rice and the Benefits of Rice Cultivation in Australia

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Rice has become a very important food source for millions of people since the realization of its potential in 2800 BC until now. It has provided those with nothing to make a living selling and growing rice while also providing a stable food source for their families.

Rice is the grain that comes from the seed of the grass species Oryza Sativa (Asian Rice) and Oryza Gablerrima (African Rise) and it provides half of the population of the world with a staple of their food. It takes 4 to 5 months for the rice to turn from seed, into an edible crop and on average each acre of land produces about eight thousand pounds of rice a year.

History of Rice

The first rice domestication from the wild grass, Oryza rufipogon happened between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago. And recent genetic testing on types of rice has shown that all forms of Asian rice, was created in an event 8,200 to 13,500 years ago in Pearl Valley. Pudding soil and transporting seeds were new methods that were being refined in China over the many generations of rice growing that all contributed to the new rice growing that methods moved to western India and southern Sri Lanka very early in rice’s history. Many researchers believe that crops of rice had been established, as early as 1000 BC. Rice then was introduced into Greece and other neighboring country’s in the Mediterranean by Alexander the Great’s expeditions to India from 324 to 344 BC.

Rice gradually spread to many parts of Europe as a result of Europe Age of Exploration and rice was brought to the new world by European settlers, to Brazil by the Portuguese which it was then spread to the rest of the countries in South America. The first records of rice production in America was in 1865 which was set up in the coastal lands of what is now South Carolina by slaves from West Africa. And in the 20th-century rice production was flourishing in California’s Sacramento Valley where at the same time Australia had just grown their first crop in New South Wales which leads me onto Australias History.

History of Rice in Austalia

Attempts of rice growing in Australia has been very difficult for farmers, due to the harsh climate and lack of large amounts of water supply which is why many things are being done about it. Jo Takasuka was one of the first known people to have planted rice crops in southeastern Australia. He was an import/export merchant who was also a parliamentarian in Japan. He then moved to Australia and in 1906 he sowed his first crop, which was 35 acres large located in the flood-prone area of Nyah on the Murray River. He struggled to get a good commercial crop growing but in 1914 the Victorian Government gave him an extra 200 acres to expand his enterprise. Jo struggled with floods, droughts, and lack of funds to try and get his crop growing meant that he was selling seeds instead of rice crop.

And in 1927 he abandoned the rice business and farming. At the same time, farmers in Leeton and Griffith in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area were able to grow rice commercially, using Californian seed. During World War 2 rice was in short supply so to meet the requirements, rice cultivation was brought to the Murray Valley and during the 1950s the industry grew bigger. Rice cultivation has improved since then as farmers have been able to decrease the amount of water used but increasing the amount of rice grow but still till today, rice growing still uses about 11% of the total irrigation water for the whole of Australia.

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Types of Rice grown in Australia

There are around 2000 family-owned farms in the Murrumbidgee Valleys in New South Wales and the Murray Valleys in both Victoria and New South Wales. The farms in New South Wales all work for the Ricegrowers Limited which is an organization that controls the production and the transaction of all rice grown and based in Australia and even globally. 400 Hectares is the size of the average crops for the growers, which all grow different types of rice.

About eighty percent of all rice grown in Australia is the medium grain varieties, Japonica. Japonica is one of the two major rice types and it is widely grown and eaten in Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. These types of rice are known as the temperate varieties because they are able to be grown in similar climates like Australia. For example, in the hot summers and cold winters that Austalia has been used to. The rest of the rice types are the long grained Indica varieties, medium-grained Amaroo and Millin are the most popular, long grained Langi and short grained Koshihikari which is only sold on the Japanese markets. But without water, the growers would not be able to grow or sell rice.

The growing of rice all depends on the amount of water available to the growers, if they have a small amount or none at all, they will not grow the rice. The water is monitored and controlled by the policies set by the companies Murrumbidgee Irrigation Limited, Murray Irrigation Limited, and Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited. And Australia is one of the leaders in water efficiency when it comes to rice growing as they use 50% less of water for growing rice than the world average. The amount of water per hectare is also declining very fast due to the amount of commitment and research being done to find better and more safe for the environment and rice growers are only allowed to use the most efficient growing practices.

Climate and Land Conditions

There are many things that need to go right for the cultivation of rice to be successful, one of the most important is the climate where the crop is started. To grow rice you need to have a lot of water, therefore the farmers have to choose the right places where they can get enough natural. Whether that is using natural or man-made ledges on the side of the mountain, as long as they can access a good water source then it will help the farmers a lot. As rice is a tropical and subtropical plant, it needs a very specific temperature so that it can grow. This optimal temperature ranges between 20℃ and 40℃but the best temperature during the day for rice cultivation is 30℃ and 20℃ during the night. The temperature affects the stages of growth for the rice grain so having the best temperature allows for the best growth.

Another major variable in the climate that the farmers have to take into consideration is the amount of daylight. Since it is vital for plants to get sun, as it is where they get the energy from, farmers have to monitor the amount of solar radiation their crops get. And during the last 35 to 45 days of the ripening period as this is one of the most important times during the cultivation of rice. The amount of sunshine on the crops can effect have a major impact on the yield depending on how much rainfall and temperature is limited by. For example, bright sunshine and low temperatures on the rice plants will help the development of carbohydrates. That is why the rice growing seasons change every year depending on the temperature, rainfall, soil conditions, and sunshine as if the temperatures are perfect for rice cultivation then farmers will plant 2 to 3 crops but if there is enough water but low temperatures then the farmers will only plant 1 crop.

Soil condition is just as important as the climate where the crops are being made as if they are in a region where they cannot survive, then the farmers will have small yield. This is what happened to Jo Takasuka as he was planting the wrong seed but the farmers in the Murrumbidgee and Murray Valley area had Californian seeds which worked very well. Farmers have to correctly prepare the soil for rice cultivation otherwise they will not grow enough yield to make any profit. If the rice seed is going to be aerially sowed or dryer crops, the ground has to be cloddy (in lumps), then sprayed with herbicide to get rid of any unwanted weeds or plants so the rice is not contaminated.

The crops are then ridge rolled to allow for even water coverage and also to knock down the clods, as if the soil is too fine it will melt and cover the soil creating muddy water. Farmers use the ridge rolling technique so that the seeds can anchor in the clouds of soil and also stop the clods from leaving the ground. When growing rice using the drill sown method, you have to allow the time for the soil to settle so you that you can plant the seeds onto a firm bed. If the soil is to compact then it will have to be cultivated and if it is uneven then grading will have to occur. Farmers prefer a harder bed to grow the rice as the cracks will allow the plants to grow further. Once the farmers have planted the rice, they have to watch out for any unwanted weeds and plants so that they can grow enough rice. The growing of rice can be very complicated, so having the correct land conditions will increase the yield.

Was the farming of rice a purely economic decision or also a political one?

I think that the farming of rice is a political decision, this is because since the start of rice farming in Australia by Jo Takasuka there had always been help from the government and still till today. When Jo had started his rice farming business, the government had given him more land for cheaper costs so that he grows more yield and make more money. This extra land was given by the government as subsidies which ultimately meant that Jo would have to pay more money on his taxes for the company. And unfortunately for Jo, his crops were not making much money which meant he had to sell his land back to the government.

This government help is still is given to the farmers of rice because they run companies or oversee companies that manage the amount of water that the farmers are allowed to use. Also, the government gives out about 20 billion dollars in subsidies to about 39% of all the major growers of rice, corn and other types of farm. These subsidies are then paid back to the government in the taxes that the farmers have to pay. The government also sells the lands to the farmer because they know that they will have to ask for subsidies which will mean that they will earn more money in the tax. These are all reasons which are why the growing of rice is a purely political decision but there are many reasons why the growing of rice is an economic decision.

Were there any consequences for the farmers?

There were many consequences both for the farmers but also for the environment and people living in nearby areas. Before the government's intervention using a policy that restricted the amount of water that farmers can use, farmers were able to use as much water as they wanted. They got their water from the Murray River and Murrumbidgee River and because of their large amount of water being used, those who worked and lived downstream began to see changes in the amount of water flowing down their way. This meant that many of their crops died because of the low amounts of water they had available to them. It also killed off a lot of wildlife since all of the rivers slowly began to dry up killing the fish that lived there. That is why the government made policies and laws which would limit the amount of water used as they created companies that would monitor and charge the farmers if they used too much.

Another consequence of rice farming is its big environmental impacts, this doesn’t just include water usage but also clearing wild bushland and forest to path out new crops. This clearing of land kills not only the native animals living there but also the plants and trees there, this deforestation causes excess carbon dioxide to leave the ground and the roots and enter the atmosphere. This causes global warming to increase which also affected the number of droughts and precipitation that occurs during the year. This is why the government had to very cautious about how many rice crops were allowed to be grown in a year.

Advantages versus Disadvantages

There are many different advantages and disadvantages to growing in Australia. This because of how rice is grown and also the resources needed to grow rice. Some advantages of rice growing are the large amounts of yields when conditions are correct, the great water efficiency due to the amount of research being done and also because of the amount of money that can be earned from the trading of rice in other countries. Some disadvantages are the deforestation caused when clearing the land for new crops, the number of things that cause the rice crops to die light the weather and temperature and another disadvantage is the number of pesticides having to be thrown onto rice crops to kill off pests and other animals that will try to eat or ruin the crops.

In my opinion, the growing of rice should happen in Australia due to the great economic profits that are made for both the governments and the families. Even though there are loads of disadvantages to the growing of rice like the high water usage and the clearing of the lands we will eventually be able to grow rice economically and efficiently using better methods that would have been researched. But for now, Australia must grow rice the way it has been to support the rest of the word.

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