Book Summary: “Rice Almanac” by Maclean, Hardy and Hettel

Title: Rice Almanac
Author: Jay Maclean, Bill Hardy and Gene Hettel
Scope: 3 stars
Readability: 3.5 stars
My personal rating: 4 stars
See more on my book rating system.

If you enjoy this summary, please support the author by buying the book.

Topic of Book

The authors cover the basics of rice production.

If you would like to learn more about food in human history, read my book From Poverty to Progress: How Humans Invented Progress, and How We Can Keep It Going.

My Comments

It is my belief that one of the most neglected topics in history is agricultural production. Without enough food to eat, humans cannot focus on solving other problems. For most of human history, the vast majority of humans focused the majority of their waking hours on producing, processing, cooking and eating food.

Since rice is and has been for centuries the dominant food source of most of East, South and Southeast Asia, it is critical to understand the crop to understand the culture and history of those regions. Most of this book covers current practices, but it also touches on historical practices.

Important Quotes from Book

“Rice has fed more people over a longer time than has any other crop” (p 2)

“In some areas, such as South Asia, the crop is produced on miniscule plots using enormous amounts of human labor” (p 4)

“The growth duration of the rice plant is 3-6 months, depending upon the variety and the environment under which it is grown” (p6)

“Human consumption in 2009 accounted for 78% of total production for rice, compared to 64% for wheat and 14% for maize” (p10)

“much of the wheat consumption in low- and lower-middle-income countries is restricted to the upper parts of the income distribution” (p11)

“Rice provided 19% of global human per capita energy… Although rice protein ranks high in nutritional quality among cereals, protein content is modest” (p12)

“More than 90% of global rice production is harvested from irrigated or rain-fed lowland rice fields… irrigated lowland rice provide 75% of world’s rice production (p 16)

“Rainfed lowlands supply about 19% or world’s rice production…. Rainfed uplands contribute about 4%” (p17)

“Rainfed rice environments experience multiple abiotic stresses and high uncertainty in the timing and duration, and intensity of rainfall… The unpredictability of rainfall often results in field conditions that are too dry or too wet.” (p17)

“With low population density and limited market access, shifting cultivation with long (more than 15 years) fallow periods was historically the dominant land-use system.”

“Weeds are an almost universal companion of rice in the tropics… Weeding is a major production cost, with estimates of 50-150 person-days per hectare for manual weeding.” (p 23)

“Human micronutrient deficiencies are relatively severe in areas where rice is the major staple.” (p 28)

“Chinas’ rice production is greater due to higher yields because nearly all of China’s rice area is irrigated, whereas less than half of India’s rice area is irrigated.” (p 30)

If you would like to learn more about food in human history, read my book From Poverty to Progress: How Humans Invented Progress, and How We Can Keep It Going.

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