Palay (Rice) (Oryza sativa)

Description and Characteristics

Palay or rice is an annual warm-season grass species. Its stalk/stem grows up to one to 1.8 meters tall depending on the variety and soil fertility. Just like other grass species, it has long, slender leaves reaching up to 100 centimeters long and 2.5 centimeters wide. Moreover, leaves are rough with small, fine notches along its edges armed with minute forward prickles. It has a fibrous root system which is built up with seminal and nodal roots with numerous lateral roots, the same as other cereal crops. Palay flowers are produced in a branch called “panicle” measuring up to 30 centimeters long. Panicles are erect at first, then starts drooping and nodding as the grains ripen. Fruits or grains develop in the same panicle. Each panicle when ripened yields an average of 80-120 grains, depending on the rice variety, environmental conditions, and crop management. Each grain is enclosed with a wall/coating known as the “rice husk” or “rice hull” which is the pericarp of the ripened ovary. Both the fruit and husk are commonly oblong or ovoid in shape. The edible grain (known as “bigas” in Filipino) measures up to 12 millimeters long, 3 millimeters thick. Husk turns from green to brown as it ripens while the fruit has a diverse shape and color ranging from white, brown, black depending on the rice variety.

PARTS OF PALAY. Photo and copyright: Scientific Technology News |
VARIETIES OF RICE. Photo and copyright: Crop Trust |

Location and Sources

Many historians believe that rice was grown as far back as 5000 B.C. It can grow in either a wet (paddy) or a dry (field) setting. Preferably, soil needs to include about 50% clay content and can hold water well, that’s why in hilly or mountainous areas, rice farms are commonly terraced to keep the paddies flooded at various elevations. In growing rice, the seeds are sown in prepared beds, and then transplanted to a field or paddy as the seedlings reach 25 to 50 days old. They are submerged under two to four inches of water until their growing season. 

The famous Banaue Rice Terraces carved into the mountains of Ifugao, Philippines perceived as the 8th wonder of the world. Photo and copyright: George Davis | Traveler by unique |

Currently, rice is grown in more than hundred countries mostly in Asia. In fact, rice is the main staple food in Asia, where about 90% of the world’s rice is produced and consumed (Source: PI, 2006 and FAO, 2008). Moreover, it is extensively cultivated in the Philippines and based on the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Rice Almanac for 2013, Philippines is the world’s eighth-largest rice producer. It is well-known that rice is a staple food for most Filipinos and it is being sold in almost all areas across the country. Rice prices, imports, and exports are enforced and controlled by the government agency known as the National Food Authority (NFA) which also procures paddy from farmers at a government support price. The agency is also involved in rice distribution by selling rice at a predetermined price through the agency’s licensed and accredited retailers/wholesalers around the country.

Application and Product Output

The grain/fruit (bigas) is the most valued part of Palay. It is the staple food of more than 60% of the world’s population. Rice bran is a healthy additive to the making of muffins, cakes, cookies, providing both fiber and nutritive value. Also, rice grains are used in various dishes around the world. In the Philippines, rice is made into different delicacies such as biko, suman, sapin-sapin, puto bumbong, espasol, etc. Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates, some vitamins and minerals, and has low fat, low salt, no cholesterol, and gluten-free. It is well established for so long now that rice/Palay is being cultivated mainly because of its grains as a food source. Another traditional use of palay is a soft broom known as “walis tambo” which is made of compressed rice panicles with flowers.

However, Palay also has its application in medicine. The decoction of its roots and rhizomes is used for anuria which occurs when the kidneys aren’t producing urine. Rice that’s boiled, drained and mashed, is made into a paste or molded into balls and applied to boils, sores, swellings, and skin blemishes. Furthermore, crude rice bran yields oil and furfural (a colorless liquid used in synthetic resin manufacture) which is used as edible oil, in fatty acids manufacturing, soaps, cosmetics, detergents, emulsifiers, and even used as an ingredient in beauty and skin care products.

ORYSPA is a local brand that’s incorporating rice in their products. Photo and copyright: ORYSPA |

Constant research and innovation made the way to the application of palay in the building and construction industry. Rice straw is used in making different kinds of boards and papers which are valuable as an insulator and in packing and building. Other application of rice stalks/straws is in building particle board, medium density fiberboard, straw board, straw bales, thatched roofs, cement bonded boards, and composites. Rice husk, on the other hand, is used traditionally as fuel and compost. But more recently, incorporation of Rice Husk Ash (RHA) into masonry mix designs gave birth to a stunning architectural-block finish that’s more eco-friendly and a promising supplementary material. The incorporation of locally-produced RHA in cement to make concrete and masonry building materials is well acknowledged since it not only further reduces the product’s carbon footprint but also yields a remarkable aesthetic. Other manufacturers prefer the original color of the RHA to dominate giving a dark black concrete while some also prefer a lighter/whiter concrete which is achieved by combining ground-granulated blast-furnace slag, hydrated lime, and lightly-colored cement. Rice husks are also used in making gypsum boards which are used as wall and ceiling panels. In 2020, Pilmico Foods Corporation (Pilmico), the food and agribusiness arm of Aboitiz Group, has started to incorporate RHA in cement for its construction needs.

Building materials made out of rice straws/stalks. Photo and copyright: Edwin R.P. Keijsers | KeijsersSustainableBuilding |
Rice Husk Ash (RHA) incorporated in concrete and construction materials. Photo and copyright: Taj Easton | Watershed Materials |

Production and Sustainable Consumption

Considering its application in the building and construction industry, rice is no doubt a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative present in the market today. However, with its high demand as a food source and never-ending consumption, people are faced with rice shortage from time to time. That is why despite being a major producer of rice, Philippines still depend on imported rice especially in times when local production is insufficient due to environmental problems and crops destruction. The Philippines imports an average of 10% of its annual consumption requirements, mostly coming from Thailand and Vietnam. At present, with the available aid and programs from the government, local farmers are trying to reconcile the gap between the supply and demand of rice in the country in the hope of making it self-sufficient (meaning, no more rice imports). That’s why local farmers should be given high regards and support with their effort and sacrifice in order to sustain and continue the rice production in the country. Some of the major constraints to rice production in the Philippines include climate change, growing population, declining land area, high cost of inputs, poor drainage, and inadequate irrigation facilities. Furthermore, shortage in domestic supply is also caused by the conversion of some agricultural land to residential, commercial, and industrial land resulting to reduced area devoted for rice production which is a sustainable income for the many locals.

Rice production has been and still is a major commercial industry in the Philippines and it’s known to provide many opportunities for local farmers and businessmen. However, if rice production constraints are not given solutions on time, the country will continue to import rice from other countries to meet domestic demand for rice in the coming years.

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Works Cited

“Crop Guide: Rice Cultivation”. HAIFA Pioneering the Future, Accessed 11 March 2021.

“Philippines”. Ricepedia, the online authority on rice,’s,4.4%20million%20hectares%20in%202010.&text=Rice%20is%20a%20staple%20food%20for%20most%20Filipinos%20across%20the%20country. Accessed 11 March 2021.

“Rice”. Britannica, Accessed 11 March 2021.

“Rice and Corn Situation and Outlook, January 2019 Round”. Philippine Statistics Authority, Accessed 11 March 2021

“RICE: World’s most staple food crop”. FAO, Regional Rice Initiative – Pilot Project in the Philippines, Accessed 11 March 2021.

Easton, Taj. “Reducing Cement Content in Masonry with Rice Husk Ash, a Promising Supplementary Cementitious Material”. WATERSHED MATERIALS, Apr. 2014, Accessed 11 March 2021.

Fitzgerald, M.A. “Cereal Grains”. ScienceDirect, Accessed 11 March 2021.

Keijsers, Edwin. “Sustainable building materials from rice straw”. KeijsersSustainableBuilding, Accessed 11 March 2021.

Miraflor, Madelaine. “Aboitiz firm using ash waste from burned rice husks to make cement”. Manila Bulletin, Aug. 2020, Accessed 11 March 2021.

Stuart, Godofredo Jr. “Palai”. StuartXchange, Accessed 11 March 2021.

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