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Oryza sativa
Oryza sativa
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Liliopsida
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Order: Poales
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Family: Poaceae
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Genus: Oryza
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Binomial name
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Type Species
*Oryza glaberrima
  • Oryza sativa
Brown basmati rice from India
Terrace of paddy fields in Yunnan Province, southern China.

Domesticated Rice comprises two species in the Poaceae ("true grass") family, Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima. These plants are native to tropical and subtropical southern Asia and southeastern Africa. Rice provides more than one fifth of the calories consumed by humans in their global diets.[1] (The term "wild rice" can refer to the wild species of Oryza, but conventionally refers to species of the related genus Zizania, both wild and domesticated.) Rice is a monocarpic annual plant, growing to 1–1.8 m tall, occasionally more depending on the variety and soil fertility. The grass has long, slender leaves 50–100 cm long and 2–2.5 cm broad. The small wind-pollinated flowers are produced in a branched arching to pendulous inflorescence 30–50 cm long. The seed is a grain (caryopsis) 5–12 mm long and 2–3 mm thick.

Rice is a staple for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East, South and Southeast Asia, making it the most consumed cereal grain. Rice is the world's largest crop (700 million metric tons in 2005), with maize ("corn") (694 million metric tons in 2005) and wheat (626 million metric tons in 2005) behind it.[citation needed] Rice cultivation is well-suited to countries and regions with low labour costs and high rainfall, as it is very labour-intensive to cultivate and requires plenty of water for irrigation, much like the licorice crops found in Eastern Europe. Rice can be grown practically anywhere, even on steep hillsides. Although its species are native to South Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation have made it commonplace in many cultures.



Main article: Paddy field

Rice is often grown in paddies. The shallow puddles take advantage of the rice plant's tolerance to water; the water in the paddies prevents weeds from outgrowing the crop. Once the rice has established dominance of the field, the water can be drained in preparation for harvest. Paddies increase productivity, although rice can also be grown on dry land (including on terraced hillsides) with the help of chemical weed controls.

In some instances, a deep-water strain of rice often called floating rice is grown. Floating rice can develop elongated stems capable of coping with water depths exceeding 2 meters (6.5 feet).

Rice paddies are an important habitat for birds such as herons and warblers, and a wide range of amphibians and snakes. They perform a useful function in controlling insect pests by providing useful habitats for those who prey on them. For most farm families in the Greater Mekong Subregion the rice field is the main source of household food security. Not only does rice itself provide most of the calories in the rural diet, but the rice paddy is an important source of wild and cultivated fish [1].

Preparation as food

Old fashioned way of rice polishing in Japan.
The seeds of the rice plant are first milled using a rice huller to remove the chaff (the outer husks of the grain). At this point in the process the product is called brown rice. This process may be continued, removing the germ and the rest of the husk, called the bran at this point, creating white rice. The white rice may then be buffed with glucose or talc powder (often called polished rice, though this term may also refer to white rice in general), parboiled, or processed into flour. The white rice may also be enriched by adding nutrients, especially those lost during the milling process. While the cheapest method of enriching involves adding a powdered blend of nutrients that will easily wash off (in the United States, rice which has been so treated requires a label warning against rinsing), more sophisticated methods apply nutrients directly to the grain, coating the grain with a water insoluble substance which is resistant to washing.
Terraced rice paddy on a hillslope

While washing is counter-productive for powder-enriched rice, it is absolutely necessary when talc-coated rice is used, not least because of concerns about the negative health effects of talc consumption and possibility of asbestos accompanying the talc.[citation needed] Despite the hypothetical health risks of talc (such as stomach cancer), talc-coated rice remains the norm in some countries due to its attractive shiny appearance, but it has been banned in some and is no longer widely used in others such as the United States. Even where talc is not used, glucose, starch, or other coatings may be used to improve the appearance of the grains; for this reason, many rice lovers still recommend washing all rice in order to create a better-tasting rice with a better consistency, despite the recommendation of suppliers. Much of the rices produced today are in fact water polished.

Rice bran, called nuka in Japan, is a valuable commodity in Asia and is used for many daily needs. It is a moist, oily inner layer which is heated to produce an oil. It is also used in making a kind of pickled vegetable.

The raw rice may be ground into flour for many uses, including making many kinds of beverages such as amazake, horchata, rice milk, and sake. Rice flour is generally safe for people on a gluten-free diet. Rice may also be made into various types of noodles. Raw wild or brown rice may also be consumed by raw foodist or fruitarians if soaked and sprouted (usually 1 week to 30 days).

The processed rice seeds are usually boiled or steamed to make them edible, after which they may be fried in oil or butter, or beaten in a tub to make mochi.


Rice, like other cereal grains, can be puffed (or popped). This process takes advantage of the grains' water content and typically involves heating grain pellets in a special chamber. Further puffing is sometimes accomplished by processing pre-puffed pellets in a low-pressure chamber. The ideal gas law means that either lowering the local pressure or raising the water temperature results in an increase in volume prior to water evaporation, resulting in a puffy texture.



Uncooked pre-steamed long rice

Rice is cooked by boiling or steaming. It can be cooked in just enough water to cook it through (the absorption method), or it can be cooked in a large quantity of water which is drained before serving (the rapid-boil method). Electric rice cookers, which are popular in Asia and Latin America, simplify the process of cooking rice.

Rice may also be made into rice porridge by adding more water than usual, so that the cooked rice is saturated with water to the point that it becomes very soft, expanded, and fluffy. Rice porridge is very easy to digest, so it is especially suitable for the sick.[citation needed]

Rice may be soaked prior to cooking, which decreases cooking time. For some varieties, soaking improves the texture of the cooked rice by increasing expansion of the grains.

In some culinary traditions, especially those of Latin America, Italy, and Turkey dry rice grains are fried in oil before cooking in water.

In some countries, rice is commonly consumed as parboiled rice. Also known as easy-cook rice. Parboiled rice is subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while still a brown rice. This causes nutrients from the outer husk to move into the grain itself. The parboil process causes a gelatisisation of the starch in the grains. The grains become less brittle, and the colour of the milled grain changes from white to yellow. The rice is then dried, and can then be milled as usual or consumed as brown rice. Milled parboil rice is nutritionally superior to standard milled rice. Parboiled rice has an additional benefit in that it does not stick to the pan during cooking as happens when cooking regular white rice.

A nutritionally superior method of preparing brown rice known as GABA Rice or GBR (Germinated Brown Rice)[2] may be used. This involves soaking washed brown rice for 20 hours in warm water (38 °C or 100 °F) prior to cooking it. This process stimulates germination, which activates various enzymes in the rice. By this method, a result of research carried out for the United Nations Year of Rice, it is possible to obtain a more complete amino acid profile, including GABA.

Production History


It is widely accepted that the term Rice comes from the Tamil word for rice Arisi. According to Microsoft Encarta Dictionary (2004) and to Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (1988), the word rice has an Indo-Iranian origin. It came to English from Greek óryza, via Latin oriza, Italian riso and finally Old French ris (the same as present day French riz).
The same Tamil origin produced the Arabic ar-ruzz, from which the Portuguese and Spanish word arroz originated. Orzo, a pasta shaped like small grains of rice, presumably gets its name from the Latin oriza.

Genetic History

Japanese short-grain rice

Two species of rice were domesticated, Asian rice (O. sativa) and African rice (O. glaberrima). According to Londo and Chiang, O. sativa appears to have been domesticated from wild (Asian) rice, Oryza rufipogon around the foothills of the Himalayas, with O. sativa var. indica on the Indian side and O. sativa var. japonica on the Chinese and Japanese side[3].

There are three groups of Oryza sativa cultivars: the short-grained "japonica" or "sinica" varieties, exemplifie d by Japanese rice; the long-grained "indica" varieties, exemplified by Basmati rice; and the broad-grained "javonica" varieties, which thrive under tropical conditions (Zohary and Hopf, 2000). The earliest find site for the javonica variety, dated to the fifth millennium BC, was in the earliest phases of the Hemudu culture on the south side of Hangzhou Bay in China, but was found along with japonica types.

Continental East Asia

Z. Zhao, a Chinese palaeoethnobotanist, hypothesizes that people of the Late Pleistocene began to collect wild rice. Zhao explains that the collection of wild rice from an early date eventually led to its domestication and then the exclusive use of domesticated rice strains by circa 6400 B.C. at the latest [4]. Stone tool evidence from the Yunchanyan site in Hunan province suggests the possibility that Early Neolithic groups cultivated rice as early as circa 9000 B.C. [5]. Crawford and Shen point out that calibrated radiocarbon dates show that direct evidence of the earliest cultivated rice is no older than 7000 B.C. Jared Diamond, a biologist and popular science author, summarizes some of the work done by professional archaeologists mentioned above and estimates that the earliest attested domestication of rice took place in China by 7500 B.C.[6]

One early findspot of rice from Pengtoushan in the Hupei basin was dated by AMS radiocarbon techniques to 6400–5800 BC (Zohary and Hopf 2000), but most of the Neolithic sites in China with finds of charred rice and radiocarbon dates are from 5000 BC or later (Crawford and Shen 1998). This evidence leads most archaeologists to say that large-scale dry-land rice farming began between 5000 and 4500 BC in the area of Yangtze Delta (for example Hemudu culture, discovered in 1970s), and the wet-rice cultivation began at approximately 2500 BC in the same area (Liangzhu culture). It is now commonly thought that some areas such as the alluvial plains in Shaoxing and Ningbo in Zhejiang province are the cradle-lands of East Asian rice cultivation. Finally, ancient textual evidence of the cultivation of rice in China dates to 3000 years ago.

South Asia

Wild rice appeared in the Belan and Ganges valley regions of northern India as early as 4530 BC and 5440 BC respectively. Agricultural activity during the second millennium BC included rice cultivation in the Kashmir and mature Harrappan -Pakistan regions.[7] Mixed farming was the basis of Indus valley economy. Farmers planted their crops in integrated fields. Rice, grown on the west coast, was cultivated in the Indus valley.[8] Rice, alongwith barley, meat, dairy products and fish constituted the dietary staple of the ancient Dravidian people.[9]

There is mention of ApUpa, Puro-das and Odana (rice-gruel) in the Rig Veda, terms that refer to rice dishes,[10] The rigvedic commentator Sayana refers to ' '"tandula" when commenting on RV 1.16.2., which means rice.[11] The Rigvedic term dhana (dhanaa, dhanya) means rice.[12] Both Charaka and Sushruta mention rice in detail.[13] The Arthasastra discusses aspects of rice cultivation.[14] The Kashyapiyakrishisukti by Kashyapa is the most detailed ancient Sanskrit text on rice cultivation.[15]

Korean peninsula and Japanese archipelago

Utagawa Hiroshige, Rice field in Oki province, view of O-Yama.

In 2003 archaeologists alleged that they discovered burnt grains (domesticated rice) in Soro-ri, Korea, that predate the oldest grains in China. This find potentially challenges the mainstream explanation that domesticated rice originated in China.[16] Unfortunately, the media reports of the Soro-ri charred grains are brief and lack sufficient detail for archaeologists and other scientists to properly evaluate the true meaning of this unusual find.

Reliable, mainstream archaeological evidence derived from palaeoethnobotanical investigations indicate that dry-land rice was introduced to Japan and Korea some time between 3500 and 1200 BC. The cultivation of rice in Korea and Japan during that time occurred on a small-scale, fields were impermanent plots, and evidence shows that in some cases domesticated and wild grains were planted together. The technological, subsistence, and social impact of rice and grain cultivation is not evident in archaeological data until after 1500 BC. For example, intensive wet-paddy rice agriculture was introduced into Korea shortly before or during the Middle Mumun Pottery Period (c. 850–550 BC) and reached Japan by the Final Jōmon or Initial Yayoi circa 300 BC [17][18].


African rice has been cultivated for 3500 years. Between 1500 and 800 BC, O. glaberrima propagated from its original centre, the Niger River delta, and extended to Senegal. However, it never developed far from its original region. Its cultivation even declined in favour of the Asian species, possibly brought to the African continent by Arabs coming from the east coast between the 7th and 11th centuries CE.

Near East and Europe

According to Zohary and Hopf (2000, p. 91), O. sativa was introduced to the Middle East in Hellenistic times, and was familiar to both Greek and Roman writers. They report that a large sample of rice grains was recovered from a grave at Susa in Iran (dated to the first century AD) at one end of the ancient world, while at the same time rice was grown in the Po valley in Italy. However, Pliny the Elder writes that rice (oryza) is grown only in "Egypt, Syria, Cilicia, Asia Minor and Greece" (N.H. 18.19). The Moors brought it to the Iberian Peninsula when they conquered it in 711. After the middle of the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then France, later propagating to all the continents during the great age of European exploration.

The Americas

In 1694, rice arrived in [[South Caroli na]], probably originating from Madagascar. The Spanish brought rice to South America at the beginning of the 18th century.

In the United States, colonial South Carolina and Georgia grew and amassed great wealth from the slave labour obtained from the Senegambia area of West Africa. At the port of Charleston, through which 40% of all American slave imports passed, slaves from this region of Africa brought the highest prices, in recognition of their prior knowledge of rice culture, which was put to use on the many rice plantations around Georgetown, Charleston, and Savannah. From the slaves, plantation owners learned how to dyke the marshes and periodically flood the fields. At first the rice was milled by hand with wooden paddles, then winnowed in sweetgrass baskets (the making of which was another skill brought by the slaves). The invention of the rice mill increased profitability of the crop, and the addition of water power for the mills in 1787 by millwright Jonathan Lucas was another step forward. Rice culture in the southeastern U.S. became less profitable with the loss of slave labour after the American Civil War, and it finally died out just after the turn of the 20th century. The predominant strain of rice in the Carolinas was from Africa and was known as "Carolina Gold." The cultivar has been preserved and there are current attempts to reintroduce it as a commercially grown crop.[19]

References to wild rice in the Americas are to the unrelated Zizania palustris


Although attempts to grow rice in the well-watered north of Australia have been made for many years, they have consistently failed because of inherent iron and manganese toxicities in the soils and destruction by pests.

Australia south of the nineteenth parallel has no water source adequate for rice cultivation. Nevertheless, in the 1920s it was seen as a possible irrigation crop on soils within the Murray-Darling Basin that were too heavy for the cultivation of fruit and too infertile for wheat[20].

Because irrigation water, despite the extremely low runoff of temperate Australia, was (and remains) very cheap, the growing of rice was taken up by agricultural groups over the following decades. Californian varieties of rice were found suitable for the climate in the Riverina, and the first mill opened at Leeton in 1951.

Even before this Australia's rice production greatly exceeded local needs[21], and rice exports to Japan have become a major source of foreign currency. Above-average rainfall from the 1950s to the middle 1990s[22] encouraged the expansion of the Riverina rice industry, but its prodigous water use in a practically waterless region began to attract the attention of environmental scientists. These became severely concerned with declining flow in the Snowy River and the lower Murray River.

Although rice growing in Australia is exceedingly efficient and highly profitable due to the cheapness of land, several recent years of severe drought have led many to call for its elimination because of its effects on extremely fragile aquatic ecosystems. Politicians, however, have not made any plan to reduce rice growing in southern Australia.

Gene modification

Ventria rice with human proteins

Rice was modified to express lactoferrin, lysozyme, [[hum an serum albumin]] which are proteins that are usually found in breast milk and have antiviral, bacterial, fungal effects as Ventria declares.[23]

The purpose of the gene modification of rice is to use the resulting seeds in making of drinks that can cure diarrhoea and dietary supplements to help reverse anaemia [24]

World production and trade

Paddy rice output in 2005
Top Paddy Rice Producers — 2005
(million metric ton)
Template:CHN 182
Template:IND 137
Template:IDN 54
Template:BAN 40
Template:VNM 36
Template:THA 27
Template:MMR 25
Template:PAK 18
Template:PHI 15
Template:BRA 13
Template:JPN 11
World Total 700
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

World production of rice[25] has risen steadily from about 200 million tons of paddy rice in 1960 to 600 million tons in 2004. Milled rice is about 68% of paddy rice by weight. In the year 2004, the top three producers were China (26% of world production), India (20%), and Indonesia (9%).

World trade figures are very different, as only about 5–6% of rice produced is traded internationally. The largest three exporting countries are Thailand (26% of world exports), Vietnam (15%), and the United States (11%), while the largest three importers are Indonesia (14%), Bangladesh (4%), and Brazil (3%).

Rice is the most important crop in Asia. In Cambodia, for example, 90% of the total agricultural area is used for rice production (see The Burning of the Rice by Don Puckridge for the story of rice production in Cambodia [3]).

Rice pests

Main article: List of rice diseases

Rice pests are any organisms or microbes with the potential to reduce the yield or value of the rice crop (or of rice seeds)[26] (Jahn et al 2007). Rice pests include weeds, pathogens, insects, rodents, and birds. A variety of factors can contribute to pest outbreaks, including the overuse of pesticides and high rates of nitrogen fertilizer application (e.g. Jahn et al. 2005)[4]. Weather conditions also contribute to pest outbreaks. For example, rice gall midge and army worm outbreaks tend to follow high rainfall early in the wet season, while thrips outbreaks are associated with drought (Douangboupha et al. 2006).

One of the challenges facing crop protection specialists is to develop rice pest management techniques which are sustainable. In other words, to manage crop pests in such a manner that future crop production is not threatened (Jahn et al. 2001). Rice pests are managed by cultural techniques, pest-resistant rice varieties, and pesticides (which include insecticide). Increasingly, there is evidence that farmers' pesticide applications are often unnecessary (Jahn et al. 1996, [http://www.petrra-irri.org/html/ sp_doc_download.asp?doc_id=105 2004a,b)] [5][6][7]. By reducing the populations of natural enemies of rice pests (Jahn 1992), misuse of insecticides can actually lead to pest outbreaks (Cohen et al. 1994). Botanicals, so-called “natural pesticides”, are used by some farmers in an attempt to control rice pests, but in general the practice is not common. Upland rice is grown without standing water in the field. Some upland rice farmers in Cambodia spread chopped leaves of the bitter bush (Chromolaena odorata (L.)) over the surface of fields after planting. The practice probably helps the soil retain moisture and thereby facilitates seed germination. Farmers also claim the leaves are a natural fertilizer and helps suppress weed and insect infestations (Jahn et al. 1999).

Among rice cultivars there are differences in the responses to, and recovery from, pest damage (Jahn et al. 2004c, Khiev et al. 2000). Therefore, particular cultivars are recommended for areas prone to certain pest problems. Major rice pests include the brown planthopper[8] (Preap et al. 2006), armyworms[9], the green leafhopper, the rice gall midge (Jahn and Khiev 2004), the rice bug (Jahn et al. 2004c), hispa (Murphy et al. 2006), the rice leaffolder, stemborer, rats (Leung et al 2002), and the weed Echinochloa crusgali (Pheng et al. 2001). Major rice diseases include Rice Ragged Stunt, Sheath Blight and Tungro. Rice blast, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe grisea, is the most significant disease affecting rice cultivation.


Main article: List of rice varieties

The largest collection of rice cultivars is at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), with over 100,000 rice accessions [10] held in the International Rice Genebank [11]. Rice cultivars are often classified by their grain shapes and texture. For example, Thai Jasmine rice is long-grain and relatively less sticky, as long-grain rice contains less amylopectin than short-grain cultivars. Chinese restaurants usually serve long-grain as plain unseasoned steamed rice. Japanese mochi rice and Chinese sticky rice are short-grain. Chinese people use sticky rice which is properly known as "glutinous rice" (note: glutinous refer to the glue-like characteristic of rice; does not refer to "gluten") to make zongzi. The Japanese table rice is a sticky, short-grain rice. Japanese sake rice is another kind as well.

Indian rice cultivars include long-grained and aromatic Basmati (grown in the North), long and medium-grained Patna rice and short-grained Masoori. In South India the most prized cultivar is 'ponni' which is primarily grown in the delta regions of Kaveri River. Kaveri is also referred to as ponni in the South and the name reflects the geographic region where it is grown. Rice in East India and South India, is usually prepared by boiling the rice in large pans immediately after harvesting and before removing the husk; this is referred to in English as parboiled rice. It is then dried, and the husk removed later. It often displays small red speckles, and has a smoky flavour from the fires. Usually coarser rice is used for this procedure. It helps to retain the natural vitamins and kill any fungi or other contaminants, but leads to an odour which some find peculiar. This rice is easier on the stomach to digest.[citation needed] In South India, it is also used to make idlis. In the Western Indian state of Maharashtra, a short grain variety called Ambemohar is very popular. this rice has a characteristic fragrance of Mango blossom.

Brown Rice
Polished Indian sona masuri rice.

Aromatic rices have definite aromas and flavours; the most noted cultivars are Thai fragrant rice, Basmati, Patna rice, and a hybrid cultivar from America sold under the trade name, Texmati. It is a cross between Basmati and American long-grained rice that is creating great controversy.[citation needed] Both Basmati and Texmati have a mild popcorn-like aroma and flavour. In Indonesia there are also red and black cultivars.

High-yield cultivars of rice suitable for cultivation in Africa and other dry ecosystems called the new rice for Africa (NERICA) cultivars have been developed. It is hoped that their cultivation will improve food security in West Africa.

Scientists are working on so-called golden rice which is genetically modified to produce beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.

Draft genomes for the two most common rice cultivars, indica and japonica, were published in April 2002. Rice was chosen as a model organism for the biology of grasses because of its relatively small genome (~430 megabase pairs). Rice was the first crop with a complete genome sequence.[27] Basmati rice is the oldest, common progenitor for most types.

On December 16, 2002, the UN General Assembly declared the year 2004 the International Year of Rice. The declaration was sponsored by more than 40 countries.

See also

American long-grain rice
Japanese short-grain rice




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  • Khiev, B., G. C. Jahn, C. Pol, and N. Chhorn 2000. Effects of simulated pest damage on rice yields. IRRN 25 (3): 27–28.
  • Leung LKP, Peter G. Cox, Gary C. Jahn and Robert Nugent. 2002. Evaluating rodent management with Cambodian rice farmers. Cambodian Journal of Agriculture Vol. 5, pp. 21–26.
  • Murphy, S, J Stonehouse, J Holt, J Venn, NQ Kamal, MF Rabbi, MH Haque, G Jahn, B Barrion. 2006. Ecology and management of rice hispa (Dicladispa armigera) in Bangladesh. Pp. 162––164. In Perspectives on Pests II: Achievements of research under UK Department for International Development, Crop Protection Programme 2000–05. Natural Resources International Limited. 206 pages. [18]
  • Pheng, S., B. Khiev, C. Pol and G. C. Jahn 2001. Response of two rice cultivars to the competition of Echinochloa crus-gali (L.) P. Beauv. International Rice Research Institute Notes (IRRN) 26 (2): 36–37.
  • Preap V., M. P. Zalucki and G. C. Jahn. 2006. Brown planthopper outbreaks and management. Cambodian Journal of Agriculture 7(1): 17–25.
  • Preap, V, GC Jahn, K Hin, N Siheng. 2005. Fish and rice management system to enable agricultural diversification. Paper presented at the 5th Asia-Pacific Congress of Entomology, 18–21 Oct. 2005, Jeju, Korea.
  • Rice Research in South Asia through Ages by Y L Nene, Asian Agri-History Vol. 9, No. 2, 2005 (85–106) [19]
  • Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition Oxford: University Press, 2000.
  • Zhao, Z. 1998. The Middle Yangtze Region in China is the Place Where Rice was Domesticated: Phytolithic Evidence from the Diaotonghuan Cave, Northern Jiangxi. Antiquity 72:885–897.

External links




Rice research

Rice in agriculture

American Phytopathological  Society: Diseases of Rice (Oryza sativa)]

Rice pests and diseases

Rice as food

Rice economics

Rice genome




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