Nowhere in the world is rice production more advanced than in California. Careful attention to every step in the cropping cycle and milling ensures that rice produced in our warm Mediterranean climate meets-and often exceeds-customers' expectations for great rice.
In March, farmers begin to prepare their fields for planting. First, fields are carefully leveled with precision using GPS satellite-driven technology or laser-guided grading equipment to fully level fields, maximizing water efficiency. For decades now, rice growers across the Sacramento Valley have taken steps to integrate water-reducing practices on their farms, helping to cut water use by 30%. Fertilizer is then added, and shallow furrows are rolled into the field. By April, the fields are ready to be planted.
Water is run into the fields to a depth of only 5 inches. Consistent water depth has been shown to improve the rice plants' ability to compete against weeds for nutrients and sunlight, reducing the need for herbicides.
Rice varieties now grown produce more grain, while using less water. The rice seed is soaked and loaded into planes. Flying at 100 mph, planes plant the fields from the air. The heavy seeds sink into the furrows and are now ready to begin their four to five-month journey to maturity.
The rice grows rapidly, ultimately reaching a height of 3 feet. By late summer, the grain begins to appear in long panicles on the top of the plant. In late August, the fields are drained, with 40% of the water used to grow rice being recycled, flowing to other neighboring farms to help irrigate different crops, traveling to wildlife refuges for further reuse or continuing downstream returning to the environment. By September, the grain heads are mature and ready for harvest.
High-tech, state-of-the-art harvesters enter the fields to collect the perfectly ripe grain. Because quality is so important, these harvesters are designed to both gently and rapidly bring the grain in from the fields. Specialized tractors called bankout wagons come alongside, receiving the rice and delivering it to waiting trailers so the harvesters can continue without having to stop to unload. On average, each acre will yield over 8,500 pounds of rice!
Next, the rice is carefully dried to an ideal moisture level and stored until the customer places an order. At the mill, the hull is first removed, leaving brown rice. White rice is the result of gently removing the bran layers to leave just the inner, pearly grain. Rice mills in California are among the most advanced in the world, with specialized equipment to mill, sort and package rice to meet the highest quality standards.