Give your rice seeds a good start



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Content: Rice that is grown in irrigated conditions will grow quickly in the field if you sprout the seeds before planting. To sprout the seeds, soak them in water for one or two days. Then keep them in a sack or a pile for another couple of days. They are ready to plant when they start to sprout.

Do birds, insects, or diseases ever attack your rice seeds after you’ve planted them? If so, I have some advice for you today that comes from Dr. Benito Vergara of the International Rice Research Institute. The method he describes is used only for rice grown in irrigated conditions. Dr. Vergara says that, instead of planting seeds and letting them sprout or germinate in the normal way, you can germinate them first and then plant the sprouted seeds. If you do this, the rice will start to grow quickly in the field. Birds, insects, and diseases will be less likely to attack what you’ve planted because the sprouted seeds will start to grow into tiny plants right away.

There are two steps necessary for sprouting seeds. Getting them ready to plant will take between two and four days and nights. If you’re going to try out this method, why not do it with a small quantity of seeds the first time and find out how well it works for you?

Soaking the seed

First, the seeds have to be soaked in water. Pour your seed into a bucket or drum of fresh water. Soak the seeds all day and all night for at least 24 hours (one day and one night). If the weather is cool and temperature is much lower than 27oC (80oF), you will have to soak the seeds for a longer time, two days and two nights. The lower the temperature, the longer you must soak the seeds. While soaking the seeds, it’s a good idea to keep the water fresh by changing it about five times a day. Some farmers place a sack full of seeds to soak in running water, possibly a nearby stream.

Incubating the seed

When you’ve finished soaking the rice seeds, it’s time to do something special to keep them warm, not hot. This will help them start to sprout.

Here’s a good way to do that. Take the seeds out of the water they’ve been soaking in. Rinse them with fresh water two or three times. Then drain off the water. Now put the seeds in a clean cloth bag or sack. Close the sack well and put it in the shade for one or two days. Turn the bag twice a day to move the seeds around a little in the bag and give them air. When you turn the bag, it’s also important to sprinkle water on it to keep the seeds damp. After the first day, look at the seeds each time you turn the bag. When they start to sprout and you see tiny shoots on the seeds, no more than two or three millimetres (1/16 inch) long, its time to plant the seeds.

Incubating larger quantities of rice seed

If you have more than one sack of seeds, you could spread the seeds on the floor. If you have a cement floor in a shady area, that would be good, or you could pile your seeds on plastic sheets or on dried banana leaves spread out on the ground. You can pile the seeds up to as much as 30 centimetres (1 foot) if necessary to save space. Cover the seeds with moist sacks. Keep the sacks wet all the time by sprinkling them with water. Mix the seeds with your hands once a day and sprinkle water on them while mixing them. Keep the seeds covered with the moist sacks for one or two days until you see that they are beginning to sprout. When that time comes, the seeds should be planted right away. Be sure to handle the seeds very carefully when planting so that you don’t damage or break off the tiny sprout.


It’s easy to get your rice seeds to grow quickly after planting. It will take longer in cool weather, less time when it’s warm.

Soak the seeds in fresh water for one or two full days to make them soft. Then, put them in a sack or a pile for another full day or two. During that time, they must be moved or stirred regularly and kept moist. This keeps them warm. After they start sprouting, they’re ready to plant. They will now grow quickly into small plants before birds, insects, or diseases can attack them. A great way to get your paddy crop off to a good start.


This is one of three items in this package on rice production. You may wish to use these items together.

Information sources

Interview with Dr. Benito Vergara of the International Rice Research Institute by George Atkins.

A farmer’s primer on growing rice (1979, 221 pages) by Benito S. Vergara, published by the International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines.