It’s been about 10,000 years since our ancestors began farming, but crop domestication has taken much longer than expected – a delay caused less by genetics and more by culture and history, according to a new study co-authored by University of Guelph researchers.
The new paper digs at the roots not just of crop domestication but of civilization itself, says plant agriculture professor Lewis Lukens. “How did humans get food? Without domestication – without food – it’s hard for populations to settle down,” he said. “Domestication was the key for all subsequent human civilization.”
The study appears this the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lukens and Guelph PhD student Ann Meyer worked on the study with biologists at Oklahoma State University and Washington State University.
Examining crop domestication tells us how our ancestors developed food, feed and fibre leading to today’s crops and products. Examining crop genetics might also help breeders and farmers looking to further refine and grow more crops for an expanding human population.
“This work is largely historical, but there are increasing demands for food production, and understanding the genetic basis of past plant improvement should help future efforts,” he said.
The Guelph team analyzed data from earlier studies of domesticated cereal crop species, and the American scientists also performed field tests.
To study the historical effects of interactions between genes and between genes and the environment, they looked at genes controlling several crop plant traits.
Domestication has yielded modern crops whose seeds resist shattering, such as corn whose kernels stay on the cob instead of falling off. Early agriculturalists also shortened flowering time for crops, necessary in shorter growing seasons as in Canada.
Domestication traits are known to have developed more slowly than expected over the past 10,000 years. The researchers wondered whether genetic factors hindered transmission of genes controlling such traits. Instead, they found that domestication traits are often faithfully passed from parent to progeny, and often more so than ancestral traits, said Lukens.
That suggests cultural and historical factors – anything from war and famine to lack of communication among separated populations – accounted for the creeping rate of domestication.
“We conclude that the slow adaptation of domesticated plants by humans was likely due to historical factors that limited technological progress,” said Lukens.
This research project stemmed from a meeting of anthropologists, archeobotanists and geneticists at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.
Prof. Lewis Lukens
Department of Plant Agriculture
519 824-4120, Ext. 52304 or 58164
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or email@example.com
Lewis Lukens | Eurek Alert!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.10.2016 | Process Engineering