Rice is a cereal grain that comes from the Oryza sativa plant, a member of the grass family. The cooked seeds of this plant account for over three-quarters of the total calorie intake for residents of Asian countries such as India, Japan, China and Indonesia; half of the world's population depends on rice as their major food source. Machines and tools used in rice cultivation are a combination of traditional hand implements and mechanized equipment.
Ground Preparation Tools
Farmers get the soil ready for planting by breaking up its surface. Rice growers in each country use different tools for planting, varying with the region and economic status. Modern farmers in Japan use rototillers with diesel-powered engines to prepare fields. Traditional farmers in Indonesia and Japan use water buffalo to pull a plough or harrow through the soil to aerate it, cut down and plough-in any weeds and bring fresh soil to the surface. Indonesians growing rice without machines or animals to assist in the process use long, wooden-handled tools with flat metal blades (like a gardener's grub hoe) for this task.
Rice Planting Tools
Rice seedlings are transplanted by two methods; hand and machine. At modern Korean rice farms, trays of shoots are loaded onto the conveyor belt of a diesel-powered tractor, which catches seedlings by a hook and inserts them into the ground. In less mechanized regions, including parts of China, planting is done by workers using fingers as a tool to make a hole for the rice plant, maintaining straight lines throughout the field by a series of strings.
Rice Harvesting Tools
Rice harvesting tools can be as simple as the sickle, a traditional hand tool featuring a curved blade set on a short wooden handle. The sickle is the tool of choice in much of the rice-producing world, due to its low cost. More modern types of rice harvesting tools include a rice combine harvester developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute. A Philippine government-sponsored program teaches farmers how to use the harvester to maximize crop yields with this machine, which not only harvests, but cleans, threshes and packages the rice.
Rice Threshing Tools
Once the rice crop is harvested and bundled into sheaves, the traditional farmer in areas such as rural China threshes rice by beating each bundle against a wooden board placed at a 45-degree angle to the ground. The released grains fall onto a mat spread below the board, and are gathered up and spread out to dry in the sun prior to the milling process.
Rice Milling Tools
The last step in rice cultivation in China involves a trip to the local village or town mill. Here, rice passes over a long conveyor belt with vibrators underneath to loosen the husks. The finished, ready-to-cook grains are put into sacks at the far end of the belt; husks are discarded, or used as fertilizer and animal feed.