Double-headed rice, illustration from the Japanese agricultural encyclopedia Seikei Zusetsu (1804)
A mixture of brown, white, and red indica rice, also containing wild rice, Zizania species
Rice is the seed of the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice). As a cereal grain, it is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in Asia. It is the agricultural commodity with the third-highest worldwide production (rice, 741.5 million tonnes in 2014), after sugarcane (1.9 billion tonnes) and maize (1.0 billion tonnes).
Since sizable portions of sugarcane and maize crops are used for purposes other than human consumption, rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one-fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans. There are many varieties of rice and culinary preferences tend to vary regionally.
Cooked brown rice from Bhutan
Jumli Marshi, brown rice from Nepal
Rice can come in many shapes, colors and sizes.
Rice, a monocot, is normally grown as an annual plant, although in tropical areas it can survive as a perennial and can produce a ratoon crop for up to 30 years. Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labor costs and high rainfall, as it is labor-intensive to cultivate and requires ample water. However, rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on a steep hill or mountain area with the use of water-controlling terrace systems. Although its parent species are native to Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures worldwide.
The traditional method for cultivating rice is flooding the fields while, or after, setting the young seedlings. This simple method requires sound planning and servicing of the water damming and channeling, but reduces the growth of less robust weed and pest plants that have no submerged growth state, and deters vermin. While flooding is not mandatory for the cultivation of rice, all other methods of irrigation require higher effort in weed and pest control during growth periods and a different approach for fertilizing the soil.
The name wild rice is usually used for species of the genera Zizania and Porteresia, both wild and domesticated, although the term may also be used for primitive or uncultivated varieties of Oryza.
The origin of the Greek word is unclear. It is sometimes held to be from the Tamil word அரிசி (arisi), or rather Old Tamil𑀅𑀭𑀺𑀘𑀺 (arici). However, Krishnamurti disagrees with the notion that Old Tamil arici is the source of the Greek term, and proposes that it was borrowed from descendants of Proto-Dravidian *wariñci instead. Mayrhofer suggests that the immediate source of the Greek word is to be sought in Old Iranian words of the types *vrīz- or *vrinj-, source of the modern Persian word برنج (berenj), but these are ultimately traced back to Indo-Aryan (as in Sanskritव्रीहि, vrīhí-). P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar assumed that the Sanskrit vrīhí- is derived from the Tamil arici, while Ferdinand Kittel derived it from the Dravidian root variki.