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From Riceland Farm: Pre-Flood Rice Science

Rice grows and develops in three stages: Vegetative, reproductive and grain filling/ripening and maturing.

According to the Arkansas Rice Production Handbook, “rice is an annual grass with round, hollow, jointed culms; narrow, flat, sessile leaf blades joined to the leaf sheaths with collars; well-defined, sickle-shaped, hairy auricles; small acute to acuminate or two cleft ligules; and terminal panicles.” [i]

In simpler terms, rice is an annual grass with flat leaves that join to a hollow stem. As the rice grows, it will form a panicle or cluster of rice grains. It’s like the fruit on a tree.

It takes approximately 120 days for rice to grow to maturity.

Mature rice plant

The first stage of development is the vegetative stage. It includes seed sprouting to the creation of the rice grain cluster, or germination to panicle initiation. Pre-flood stage of the rice plant begins at seed germination and goes until the rice plant develops four leaves.

Rice germinates within five to 10 days after being planted.

Rice seedling

Once the seed germinates, the rice seedling will emerge from the soil in five to 20 days depending on the weather.

Rice seedling

The period of development of the first leaf to the fourth leaf is called the pre-tillering stage. A gradual increase in plant height and leaf development happens in regular intervals. Roots are solidly established, and a new leaf is added every three to seven days.

Rice at four-leaf stage

Although rice is an aquatic plant, the young rice seedlings do not like water. Farmers scout rice fields during the pre-tillering stage to manage weed and grass growth. They also check for soil-borne diseases and manage weed and grass growth until the rice plant reaches the four-leaf stage of development.

Farmer with Nutsedge weed

After planting the rice seed, it takes 15-25 days until the rice plant is large enough to handle a flood. The time frame is dependent on the weather and when the seed was planted.

Stay tuned for more From Riceland Farms posts about irrigation systems, flooding rice fields and the science of rice once the fields stay in a continuous flood.


[i] Karen Moldenhauer, Charles E. Wilson, Jr., Paul Counce and Jarrod Hardke, “Rice Growth and Development,” Arkansas Rice Production Handbook (2012): 9.