Rice by stownsend


Rice used to be king here in South Carolina where I live. I took this picture at a plantation where they grow it just for visitors to see. Here is a little history of the rice industry in the south.

Rice was first grown successfully in South Carolina about 1680 when Henry H. Woodward planted seed given him by the captain of a Madagascar ship. By the early 18th century, it became a major export crop of the Lower South. Rice planting became extremely profitable and Charleston rice exports rose from 10,000 pounds in 1698 to over 20 million by 1730.

The rice fields were carved out of tidal swamps along coastal rivers by slaves brought to South Carolina from the West Indies and West Africa. With primitive tools, the slaves cleared the low-lying land of huge cypress and gum trees, and built canals, dikes, and trunks (small floodgates) that allowed the flooding and draining of fields with the high and low tides. From the 18th century to the Civil War, slaves planted, tended, and harvested the crops that made plantation owners wealthy.

The cultivation of rice with the tidal flow method transformed the coastal Southeast between 1783 and the early nineteenth century. This highly productive method was practical only on the lower stretches of a few rivers from the Cape Fear in North Carolina to the St. Johns in north Florida. The creation of a tidal rice plantation required a substantial capital investment and a tremendous amount of back-breaking labor. Slaves under planter direction cleared riverside swamps of timber and undergrowth, surrounded them with earthen levees, and then constructed an intricate system of dams, dikes, floodgates, ditches, and drains. Woman at workThe planters relied on the rise and fall of the tide to irrigate their fields several times during the growing season to encourage rice growth and control weeds and pests.

The entire hydraulic apparatus of a rice plantation required constant maintenance by skilled slaves. The Civil War and Reconstruction seriously affected rice culture. No longer able to compel work in the harsh environment of the rice fields, planters faced chronic labor shortages. Finally, a series of devastating hurricanes in the 1890s ruined the rice fields and put an end to commercial rice growing in the Southeast.
Wow, thanks for the lesson on rice in South Carolina!! Great picture and love the textures. See you in less than a week and we can go photographing together:)
October 31st, 2010  
Neat detail AND information!
October 31st, 2010  
Thanks for the info. Great shot.
October 31st, 2010  
Interesting infomation, more than I ever knew. thank you.
October 31st, 2010  
pretty pic of rice and I learned something too! :)
November 1st, 2010  
Love this photo and the history to go with it Suzie.
November 2nd, 2010  
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