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!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering