All about rice.

Rice is the oldest cultivated plant in the world.

Over 7,000 years ago, rice was first successfully cultivated in what is now China and Indonesia. The small grain has proven to be a true survivor: Today, it thrives both in lowlands below sea level and at altitudes above 2,000 meters. Although the sweet grass species is no water plant, it can be cultivated in so-called wet paddy cultivation thanks to its root aeration system. This bountiful method, which typically yields plant offshoots, produces around 80 % of today’s global rice crop. The fields are flooded with water so that the 1.2-meter high plants are in up to 20 centimeters of water. This keeps pests and weeds away.

Spectacular rice terraces.

A special form of paddy cultivation is planting in expansive rice terraces that enable cultivation even on steep slopes thanks to a sophisticated irrigation system consisting of bamboo pipes and ducts.

In mountainous areas, rice is cultivated with upland or dryland rice farming. Higher expenses coupled with lower yields make the rice varieties from this form of cultivation comparatively expensive.

"May your rice never burn."

There are many myths surrounding rice. Especially in Asian countries, rice symbolizes luck, prosperity, fertility, and immorta- lity. Accordingly, a traditional New Year’s greeting in China is: “May your rice never burn.” For East Indians, the “divine plant” also has a soul, in Malaysia it is believed that each grain of rice provides a spirit with a home, and in Indonesia, the “Mother Rice” is honored.

Rice plays an important role at weddings: In India, a handful of rice grains is wound into the corner of the bride’s sari during the wedding vows or the newlyweds sprinkle blessed rice over each others’ heads. The custom in Europe of showering newlyweds with rice to bid them a fruitful marriage with many children is said, however, to have originated in China.

A seemingly meaningless and widespread tradition in the West is that of throwing rice on stage as the two main actors Janet and Brad appear during performances of the legendary musical “Rocky Horror Picture Show.“

Small grain, huge variety.

White, black, red, brown, purple or green, long and thin or short and round, nutty, flowery or herbaceous, sticky-moist or almost completely dry: Scientists have identified around 120,000 dif- ferent varieties of rice but “only” 10,000 of them have been cultivated.

Two groups of Oryza sativa, as botanists call today’s most com- monly referred to rice plant species, are of particular importance: the indica and japonica varieties. The first accounts for around 80% of global rice production. No wonder: Indica varieties are extremely robust and have adapted to tropical climates. A typical representative is long grain rice. The japonica varieties, however, can be found in especially temperate zones. They have a short, round to oval shape, swell during cooking and become slightly sticky.

Black wild rice is actually no true rice, but rather it is a descen- dant of the North American water grass Zizania plaustris.

A grain to feed the world.

For more than half the world’s population, rice is a daily meal and the most important staple food. Whereas in western developed nations the grain is often merely served as side dish, in Asian countries such as Bangladesh it contributes up to 70 % of nutri- tional needs. Even in Indonesia and some African countries such as Sierra Leone, rice makes up around 50  % of people’s daily calorie intake.

Unlike other cereals such as corn, an overwhelming portion of the world production of rice is used for human consumption: Only 4 % ends up in animal feed, a further 3 % in industry, and 2 % is used as seed.

In the future, rice will become even more important as a staple food. Research efforts worldwide are now focusing on making plants more resistant to diseases and pests, to enhance their tolerance towards herbicides and thus increase yields. Genetic modifications also enrich the plants with vitamins and minerals in order to thwart nutrient deficiencies in various countries.

Excellent source of energy.

Rice is an excellent source of energy. It is low in fat, gluten-free, and contains 5 to 11 % of protein. This small grain, which con- tains about 350 kilocalories per 100 grams, primarily contains carbohydrates in the form of rice starch. They are easily broken down by the human body, which makes rice also an excellent energy provider for athletes.

Brown rice, which is not polished and therefore still enclosed in its nutrient-rich silver skin, has the highest vitamin and mineral con- tent. It is, however, harder to digest than its further processed, white counterpart. An alternative is parboiled rice: The vitamins and minerals of the silver skin are detached in hot water and pressed into the interior of the grain under high pressure. Vir- tually all nutrients are preserved in this manner.

Regardless of the type of processing, rice is free of gluten and thus an important constituent of the diet for people with allergies.

In the region, for the region.

In 2016, a worldwide record crop of 750 million tonnes of paddy was achieved. This corresponds to just under 498 million tonnes of processed rice. Apart from a few large producers, it is mainly the 140 million small farmers mostly in developing countries that make a living growing rice. Not even 4% of the world’s harvest comes from developed countries.

Although rice is now grown in over 100 countries on all conti- nents except Antarctica, the majority (around 90%) comes from Southeast Asia. The leading producing countries are China, India, and Indonesia. The bulk of the harvest, however, ends up in the bowls of the countries it is produced in – only 8% enters into international trade.

The two largest rice exporters, each with about 10 million tonnes, are now India and Thailand. Other major suppliers for the world market are Vietnam, Pakistan, and the USA. Risotto rice from Italy is especially popular in Europe. A large portion of this rice comes from the Po Valley, which is one of the most northern rice-growing areas and makes up around one third of European rice production.

Bühler and rice.

Opened in 2013, the Bühler Competence Centre in Bangalore, India, covers an impressive space of 32,000 square meters across 7 floors. The location was chosen as the Centre of Com- petence for rice as India is not only one of the largest producers, but also consumers of rice. The strategic location also means that regional customers and prospects can conduct trials of an application and need not travel far.

The center is a dedicated training hub, providing courses suit- able for all levels, including mill proprietors, managers, and operators. Applications mills provide customers with the ability to trial their products and have appropriate training. Rice research and development work is also conducted here, focusing on product development and process improvements. Customers can thereby enhance their skills and acquire new operating techniques, without the need for expensive travelling costs.

Bühler has a presence in over 140 countries worldwide and has centers of competence in every major rice producing region. With its local offices Bühler provides an unparalleled level of service and expertise specific to each country’s needs, according to Bühler’s motto “In the region, for the region.”

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