Rice paddy agriculture (photo: Bianca Polak).Rice paddy agriculture is the most common way of growing rice in Asia. Much of the production occurs in east and southeast Asia. A rice paddy is a field that is flooded for rice cultivation.

The rice paddy can be built on steep slopes such as terrace farming in the Philippines. But, it is more common to find them in flat lowland areas.

Photo: Rice paddy agriculture is labor intensive (photo: Bianca Polak).

Origins in China

The earliest rice paddies were developed in China. This took place sometime between 4000 BC and 3000 BC.  Then and now, rice was the most important staple food in the region. The rice paddies used advanced engineering methods. They used a system of canals and levees to manage the water supply. Oxen were often used to plow the paddy.

One point of view is that rice paddy agriculture was a response to food shortages. As populations grew, hunting and gathering could not produce enough food. To deal with the food shortage, alternative foods were harvested. Eventually, some of these alternatives were domesticated.

The other point of view is quite different. It believes that people began to grow rice because it tasted good. People produced rice because it tasted good and added variety to the diet.

Improving Your Reading and Thinking Skills

Think for a few moments. Try to recall the major ideas in this article. When you are done, click the box below for a list of main ideas.


How did you do? With practice, you should be able to identify many of the major ideas. You may even discover some important ideas that aren’t listed.


Developmental History of Paddy Rice and Arid Agriculture in Ancient Chinese Civilization, Chun Chen.
How small-scale farmers are growing more rice with less water and fewer chemicals, Mother Nature Network.


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