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What Does the Coronavirus Have to Do with Light Bulbs and Rice?

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Rice Feeds the World

Historically, the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic may go down in the history books as the year of the Great Toilet Paper Wars. However, I would propose that in a more serious sense, aside from the tragedy of deaths and the circus sideshow politics has become, the Coronavirus really affects us more along the connection between light bulbs and rice. Here’s how and why.


When “someone” of prominence puffs their chest over their level of education, their business acumen, the size of their stock portfolios…their power—essentially, what they consider to be their human pedigree, I like to toy with what I call a “thought experiment,” by asking (usually in my thought balloon only) this question: “Yes, that is all well and good, but can you re-invent the light bulb?” Most people cannot.

The point I am wanting to make is that practical skills like relighting a furnace, building a bookcase, or even changing a flat tire (safely) are out of the boundaries of what most modern men and women can accomplish due to the call of their human pedigree where Amazon is the primary solution to their problems. We try to buy our way out of our problems.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has hinted that natural disaster is our great equalizer. Covid-19 does not care where you are from, how much you make, or how media savvy you are. It is instead—brutally honest.

So where does rice fit in all of this? It’s as simple as this: when times turn bad, what do we need to survive? Water. Food. Shelter (practical skills). Sound familiar? And that’s where rice fits in. The most basic staple that has kept the world alive for thousands of years, and that many of us might need to fall back on one day…is the simple rice plant.

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Why Rice?

Rice is arguably one of the most fascinating plants…ever. Culturally, it is an important part of religious and cultural traditions throughout Asia. Historically, it can reveal much about human curiosity, human endeavor and exploration, the importance and significance of the Silk Road Trade Route and the rise and fall of nations.

Scientifically and socially, rice was at the forefront of gene-modified plant revolution 20 years ago when scientists created “Golden Rice” in hopes of creating a cross-bred strain of rice that prevents Vitamin A and iron deficiencies. In poorer nations where the majority of inhabitants have essentially little more than rice to get them through the day…every day…rice continues to be a Godsend assisted with some scientific tinkering.

But there’s another benefit to growing rice…or any plant for that matter. It’s a matter of nurture and nature. People who grow things have core skills in living and life. Not just about survival and building better and brighter light bulbs, but something that goes deeper—an intrinsic understanding of compassion for other living things. How to care for something aside from the self. How to weather the bad times as well the good times.

Perhaps we would fare better as a country if we voted for someone based on their gardening skills.

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Growing rice from seed is not hard

If you have ever been curious about whether rice can be grown in your backyard or patio, or are looking for a good introduction to gardening and have limited space, a single planter or pot…or even a bucket…can open a new world in your home.

Basically, growing rice requires:

• Soaking the seeds in water for about 36 hours.
• Filling a bucket with 6 inches of a mixture of soil and compost.
• Adding about 5 inches of water to cover the soil.
• Spreading the seeds or pushing young seedlings into the bucket of water-saturated soil.
• Keep the bucket-garden in a warm, sunny area.
• Periodically add water to maintain a constant 5-inch depth as the plants grow.
• Wait up to 160 days to enjoy the miracle of the harvest.

Informative Videos on Growing Rice in Your Home

Here are some enjoyable and informative videos on growing rice in your home. The first video demonstrates a practical approach from planting to harvest that is an excellent way to learn how a crop travels from a seed in the ground to the plate on your table. The second video is a good example of human curiosity and discovery while growing rice from the home.

If you have ever grown rice plants in your home, feel free to share some tips you may have picked up along the way.

Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with a background in farming and an avid home gardener, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between plant biology and gardening for healthy living. For continual updates about plants and health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.


"The Scented Story of Rice” by Debarati Chakraborty; Botany One March 25, 2020

Growing Rice (Paddy) in a Container Terrace Garden” YouTube: Laal Garden

Growing Rice—The Lazy Way” YouTube: Happy Hopey Human