Growing rice on the Murrumbidgee River: cultures, politics, and practices of food production and water use, 1900 to 2012
Within the context of contemporary concerns about ecological degradation and debates about water use for irrigation, this article examines how and why commercial rice growing began in the Murrumbidgee River region, New South Wales. It focuses on the crop's establishment and rapid expansion from approximately 1900 to 1960 and concentrates on three events, which each significantly shaped commercial rice growing: the problems faced by the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area during its first years of operation, the introduction of Californian varieties of rice, and World War II. This history of rice growing reveals some of the changing connections between regional, state, national, and global concerns about food and water. The analysis builds on Marnie Haig-Muir's 1996 examination of the economic forces that influenced rice growing in Wakool, located in the Murray River valley, during World War II, taking a different geographical perspective, a broader temporal view, and emphasising the importance of considering the cultural dimensions of the establishment of rice growing. It expands previous histories of water management and irrigation in Australia by examining historical agricultural publications related to rice. This history is relevant to contemporary issues around rice farming and the Murray-Darling Basin, and this article explores the ways in which the history of rice has shaped the contemporary political and physical landscape.